Less than one third of children are fully vaccinated against HPV, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association study finds

By Regence
February 25, 2021
BCBSA HPV child vaccination rates Health of America report

Vaccines play a critical role in preventing the spread of serious viruses and diseases, and yet few children are fully vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), according to a new study by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA).

In a review of national claims data, 50% of children ages 10-13 received the first dose of the HPV vaccine between 2016 and 2019—a vaccine that is proven to protect against infections that can lead to cancer later in life. Only 30% of those children received the second dose, which is required within 6-to-12 months of the first dose to reach full immunity.

BCBSA HPV child vaccination rates Health of America report 2

HPV vaccine completion rates are growing much slower than the initiation of the first dose. Between 2016 and 2019, the number of children who received the first dose increased by 46%, while completion rates only rose 16%. Source: BCBSA

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends children and adolescents receive the HPV vaccine, which protects against sexually transmitted HPV infections that can lead to many cancers, including cervical cancer. While it’s estimated that HPV is responsible for 70-90% of cervical cancers and certain throat cancers in the U.S., vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended vaccines for the 10-13 age group.

COVID-19 pandemic contributing to decline in vaccination rates

Further complicating matters, many people have deferred routine doctors’ visits because of concerns about safety amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a decline in vaccination rates. BCBSA estimates that approximately 9 million childhood vaccinations were missed in 2020, noting a 13.5% drop in the number of HPV vaccines administered, compared to 2019.

Some parents are hesitant to vaccinate their children against HPV

To better understand declining HPV vaccination rates, BCBSA surveyed parents whose children did not receive the vaccine and found:

  • 29% were unsure about the HPV vaccine’s effectiveness
  • 25% did not vaccinate their child because it was not required
  • 22% had concerns about side effects

Over 12 years of monitoring and research have shown that the HPV vaccination provides safe, effective and long-lasting protection against cancers caused by HPV.  

Well-child visits can improve vaccination rates and reduce the risk of cancer diagnoses later in life

Unlike other vaccines, the HPV vaccine is not required for school admission across the U.S., but it is easily accessible at annual wellness visits and is a critical step in fighting preventable diseases.

BCBSA’s study found that 57% of children who had at least two annual wellness visits over a three-year period completed the series of HPV vaccinations—a rate 5 times higher than children who did not have an annual check-up.

BCBSA HPV child vaccination rates Health of America report 3

Source: BCBSA

Additional key findings from the BCBSA’s study of HPV vaccination rates among children and adolescents can be found on BCBSA’s website, HealthofAmerica.com.

The HPV vaccine is covered by most health plans as a preventive benefit. Regence members are encouraged to take advantage of all their no-cost preventive care benefits for better long-term health, including screenings and immunizations. Health plan benefits and coverage are available to members by logging in to their account at regence.com. You can also chat live with a customer representative or call us using the number of the back of your member ID card.