Archived Story

Vaccines increase for Minnesota teens

Published 9:13am Thursday, September 1, 2011

More Minnesota teens are receiving recommended vaccines during adolescence, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study.

Local health officials said they’ve administered vaccines to a higher number of youths.

“We’ve noticed in our local immunization clinics here at public health over the last few years that we tend to see more teenagers than we ever saw before,” said Lisa Kocer, nursing supervisor with Public Health.

“We’ve definitely done more, which is great,” she added

Still, the rates are not as high as state health officials would like.

Teen immunization rates for the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis booster (Tdap) increased from 52 percent in 2009 to 70.3 percent in 2010, according to the National Immunization Survey.

Immunization for the meningococcal vaccine, which protects against a serious form of meningitis, increased from 43.9 percent to 57.0 percent. And 37.8 percent of adolescent girls had completed the three-dose series of human papilloma virus vaccine, which prevents cervical cancer, which was up from 27.0 percent the year before.

Nationally, coverage with each of the vaccines rose at a pace similar to Minnesota’s, according to a Minnesota Department of Health news release.

“We’re pleased that Minnesota continues to show improvement in coverage rates for these important vaccines,” said Kristen Ehresmann, director of Infectious Disease, Epidemiology, Prevention and Control for the Minnesota Department of Health, in a news release. “We’re making progress, but these results also tell us we still have much work to do before we can say our young people are sufficiently protected from these diseases.”

It’s important that adolescents get these vaccines, Ehresmann said, because they provide protection against diseases at a time when teens and young adults are at risk. Also, the adolescent health check-up recommended at 11 or 12 years of age provides a convenient time to receive these vaccines while adolescents are still visiting their health care providers regularly.

The vaccinations aren’t just beneficial to the young people who get them, they benefit the whole community by preventing illnesses.

“It’s important community wide to keep getting people vaccinated,” Kocer said.

Though the state doesn’t track local numbers, Kocer said she thinks the county’s numbers are comparable to the state.

“I have not felt that we’re behind the state at all,” she said.

Still, there’s room for improvement. CDC officials expressed concern that HPV vaccination rates are not growing as fast as the rates for other adolescent vaccines. In Minnesota as well as in the nation as a whole, the trajectory of increase is somewhat lower for HPV than for other vaccines.

Local officials echoed the need to improve HPV vaccinations.

“We’d prefer it up over 50 percent, but it’s better than it was,” Kocer said.

With the HPV vaccine, the main goal is to prevent cervical cancer in women. The HPV vaccine provides almost 100 percent protection against the two forms of human papilloma virus that cause most cases of cervical cancer.

“When someone becomes sexually active, male or female, their chances of getting HPV within the first few months are extremely high,” Ehresmann said. “Getting the vaccine after sexual activity has begun may be too late.”