HPV Vaccination Rates 72%; Religious Exemptions Up

Nov 19, 2015

About 72% of seventh graders got the HPV vaccination, according to preliminary data from the state health department. The HPV vaccine was a new requirement for this school year, and it generated complaints from some parents.

Syringes filled with vaccines wait in a tray at a pediatrician's office.
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nationally, 60% of girls between 13 and 17 had at least one HPV dose, and 41% of boys between 13 and 17 got at least one HPV dose in 2014. The recommendations are for boys and girls to receive all three doses by the time they finish high school.

Rhode Island’s child immunization rate has traditionally been pretty high. Nearly 100% for some vaccines, like the ones that protect against hepatitis B and measles, mumps, and rubella.

The HPV vaccine prevents cervical and other kinds of cancers that can arise from a sexually transmitted virus. Requiring it for for all seventh grade boys and girls set off a wave of protests earlier this year among some parents.

According to preliminary data from the health department, the number of parents filing a religious exemption for their children shot up this year, from less than half a percent in 2012 to 4.5 percent this year. Roughly 2800 children, or about 28 percent of all seventh graders, did not receive the HPV vaccine before starting middle school this year. It's not known exactly why for most, but 450 religious exemptions were granted.