Researchers have found in a new study that the three-shot human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is not being administered to young girls as recommended.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), HPV "causes cervical cancer which is the second most common cancer in women worldwide" and "more than 85% of cervical cancer deaths are in developing countries, where it accounts for 13% of all female cancers."

The new study is published in the August 2 eFirst Pages online edition of the American journal Pediatric.

The authors concluded, "the vast majority of pediatricians and family physicians reported offering HPV vaccine." However, "fewer physicians strongly recommended the vaccine for younger adolescents [11-12 year olds] than for older adolescents, and physicians reported financial obstacles to vaccination."

Matthew F. Daley, MD, a pediatrician and a researcher at the University of Colorado School of Medicine (UCHSC) in Denver, Colorado, led the study with a team of researchers that "surveyed 429 pediatricians and 419 family physicians" during 2008 across the US, according to a UCHSC announcement on August 2.

The survey confirmed that "98% of pediatricians and 88% of family physicians reported that HPV vaccine was being administered to their female patients."

"HPV vaccination is our best chance at preventing cervical cancer, so it's reassuring doctors are using it. However, vaccination should ideally begin at 11 years of age, so that young women complete the 3-dose series and are protected," explained Daley.

According to the US Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "the vaccine is routinely recommended for 11 and 12 year old girls. It is also recommended for girls and women age 13 through 26 who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series."

The survey results also showed administering the vaccine brought up a number of issues surrounding sexual awareness/education, and moral or religious issues.

Daley et al also found "active strategies (such as sending reminders) to ensure that patients who started HPV vaccination received all three doses" were not being used by the majority of the physicians.  

The WHO notes, "Although most infections with HPV cause no symptoms, persistent genital HPV infection can cause cervical cancer in women. Virtually all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to genital infection with HPV which is the most common viral infection of the reproductive tract."

"HPV can also cause other types of anogenital cancer, head and neck cancers, and genital warts in both men and women. HPV infections are transmitted through sexual contact," explains the WHO.

Full study, "Human Papillomavirus Vaccination Practices: Survey of US Physicians 18 Months After Licensure":
More information on the HPV vaccine via the CDC: