Only Half of Young Women Complete Three-Part HPV Vaccine

Release Date: December 11, 2012 | By Glenda Fauntleroy, Contributing Writer
Research Source: Journal of Adolescent Health


  • A survey found that just 50 percent of females age 11 to 26 completed the three-part HPV vaccine within one year, as recommended.
  • Young women who understood that the HPV vaccine had three doses were more likely to get the full series.
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Of young women who start the three-part series of the highly effective human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, only half get all the necessary doses, according to new research in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

The vaccine comes in two varieties. Both target the HPV types that commonly cause cervical cancer and one vaccine protects against genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is recommended that the second and third doses be given at two and six months after the first dose. Women who do not complete the series of three doses may not be protected.

In the new study, researchers from the Center for Health Research at Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Portland evaluated surveys from 899 young women ages 11 to 26 who had received the first dose of the HPV series between February and September 2008 at the health center. They were asked whether they had completed their additional doses and their reasons for not returning.

Results showed that just 50 percent had completed the vaccine series within that year. Young women between the ages of 16 and 20 had the lowest completion rate at 40 percent.

Lead author Rachel Gold, Ph.D., assistant investigator at Kaiser Permanente, said the completion rate was within the range of expectations.

“It needs improvement, but it isn’t that surprising for a three-dose vaccine series administered over the course of 6 months,” Gold explained. “Consider the logistics involved, when most teens only see the doctor annually at most.”

The study reported that a young woman’s ability to properly identify how many shots were required to complete the series was significantly associated with series completion.

Gold and her team concluded that providers should stress the need for additional doses and confirm that patients understand this information. And special attention should be given to 16 to 20 year olds.

“One of the complications for administering vaccines to this age group is that adolescent girls are in-between having their health concerns and health-seeking behaviors be determined by their parents and attending to them on their own,” said Heidi Jones, Ph.D., assistant professor at CUNY School of Public Health, Hunter College.

“Improved communication between the provider, the adolescents and their parents is one way to improve completion of the three doses,” she agreed. “Additionally, low cost interventions such as automated text message to their cell phones reminding them when they are due for a next shot may be another way to increase full compliance.”

TERMS OF USE: This story is protected by copyright. When reproducing any material, including interview excerpts, attribution to the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, is required. While the information provided in this news story is from the latest peer-reviewed research, it is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment recommendations. For medical questions or concerns, please consult a health care provider.


For More Information:

Reach the Health Behavior News Service, part of the Center for Advancing Health, at or (202) 387-2829.

Journal of Adolescent Health: Contact Tor Berg at (415) 502-1373 or or visit

Gold R, Naleway A, Riedlinger K. (2012). Factors predicting completion of the human papillomavirus vaccine series. Journal of Adolescent Health.

Tags for this article:
Immunizations/Vaccinations   Get Preventive Health Care   Women's Health   Children and Young People's Health  

Comments on this article
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Twyla says
December 13, 2012 at 2:09 AM

"They were asked whether they had completed their additional doses and their reasons for not returning."
What reasons did they state for not returning?

PutinReloaded says
December 13, 2012 at 7:15 AM

No mention of how many teens and young women didn't complete the HPV series because they had a bad reaction to the first or second dose.