NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Only about one third of eligible young women in the United States complete a full course of the vaccine against the human wart virus that is the primary cause of cervical cancer, a U.S. study said.
And the older the woman, the less likely she is to have gotten even one of the three doses recommended for full protection against the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends vaccinations for girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26. Cervical cancer kills 4,000 U.S. women each year.
"This means that large numbers of teenagers are unprotected or underprotected from strains of HPV that lead to cervical cancer," said J. Kathleen Tracy, assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who headed the study.
The study, presented at the Ninth Annual American Association for Cancer Research Frontiers in Cancer Prevention Research Conference, covered 9,660 women between the ages of 9 and 26 eligible for HPV vaccination between August 2006 and August 2010.
Of these, only 39.1 percent received a single dose, 30.1 percent received two doses, and 30.8 percent completed the recommended three dose regimen.
"It's pretty easy to get one dose if you're opportunistically offered it when you're in a clinic for some other reason, which tends to be how this happens," she told Reuters Health.
"But anytime you have to go back multiple times, that adds a level of complication."
Women between the ages of 18 to 26 were least likely to get even a single dose, which Tracy told Reuters Health was probably due to the influence of parents on younger women, since parental consent is required for getting the vaccine under age 18.
Reaching out to these women may require new methods, she added.
"What we are exploring with the 18- to 26-year-olds is using mobile phone technology as a way to increase adherence to HPV vaccination by sending text messages," she said.
Reporting by Megan Brooks at Reuters Health; editing by Elaine Lies