In 2010, only 32% of girls age 13-17 had completed a 3 dose regimen for vaccination against HPV. As of this post, Virginia and the District of Columbia are the only regions of the U.S. that have legislature mandating HPV vaccinations for girls by the age of 13. Surprisingly, the completion rate in D.C. was only 33.8%. How could this be?
Because the D.C. legislature allowed parents to waive the mandatory vaccine, vaccination rates in D.C. were actually no higher than the national average in 2010. In fact, according to the D.C. Department of Health, only 23.5% of 6th graders in the 2010-2011 school year completed the vaccination regimen, with 42.1% waiving the vaccine and 34.4% simply not complying. It is interesting to note that girls in private and parochial schools had roughly half the vaccination rate as girls in public and charter schools.
I think this data reveals an intriguing intersection between virology, culture, and public policy. It’s evident that throwing legislation around hasn’t resulted in the desired changes. So let’s focus on the community: what is it that the public wants before they will choose to accept HPV vaccinations?