Teen vaccination rates rise

  • Article by: MAURA LERNER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: August 25, 2011 - 8:27 PM

Survey finds progress against meningitis, HPV and other threats, but "we still have much work to do."

The share of Minnesota teenagers getting key vaccinations rose sharply from 2009 to 2010, according to a survey released Thursday, but state health officials say more progress is needed.

For the first time, more than half of the state's teenagers were vaccinated against a serious form of meningitis.

The survey also found an increase in two other vaccines recommended for adolescents, including the HPV vaccine, which guards against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Last year, nearly 38 percent of teenage girls in Minnesota received the three-dose vaccine for HPV, or human papilloma virus, up from 27 percent the year before, according to the National Immunization Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The national average is 32 percent.

At the same time, Minnesota teenagers lagged behind the national average on the meningitis vaccine -- 57 percent, compared to 63 percent nationally in 2010. The year before, only 44 percent of Minnesota teenagers had received the vaccine.

"We're making progress," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of the infectious disease program at the Minnesota Department of Health. But, she said, "these results also tell us we still have much work to do."

Ehresmann said the increases reflect a growing knowledge, and acceptance, of the vaccines.

The survey found that rates jumped significantly for a "relatively new'' booster shot against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis. In 2010, 70 percent of Minnesota teenagers had received the shot, up from 52 percent in 2009. The national average is 69 percent.

Dr. Anne Schuchat, head of the CDC's immunization center, said she was particularly concerned that the national HPV vaccine rates weren't higher. "If we don't make major changes, far too many girls in this generation will remain vulnerable to cervical cancer later in life," she said in a news release accompanying the survey. "Now that we have the tools to prevent most cervical cancers, it is critical that we use them."

The CDC says about 12,000 women a year develop cervical cancer, which has been linked to the human papilloma virus.

The agency recommends that girls 11 to 12 receive the vaccine, before they have a chance to be exposed to the virus through sexual contact.

But some critics have objected on moral and safety grounds. The vaccine is designed to be given in three doses over six months.

Maura Lerner • 612-673-7384

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