Few teen girls and young women are getting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and only a third of those who started the regimen complete the required three doses, according to research presented at an American Association of Cancer Research meeting and reported by HealthDay News.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection that can be spread through simple skin-on-skin contact. Some HPV strains can cause cervical cancer. To date, studies have shown that HPV vaccines provide safe and effective protection against several of these strains.

For the study, researchers looked at the medical records of 9,658 girls and women, ages 9 through 26, examined at the University of Maryland Medical Center between 2006 and 2010.

Of the patients studied, only 27.3 percent chose to start the vaccine treatment. What’s more, of this group, only 39.7 percent completed one dose, 30.1 percent completed two doses, and 30.7 percent finished the three-dose series.

Moreover, researchers also found that African-American women were less likely than white women to take all three doses and that women between the ages of 18 and 26 were less likely than younger women to complete the vaccine series.

“Women who are eligible for this vaccine and could potentially benefit aren’t getting it at rates to maximally prevent cervical cancer,” said J. Kathleen Tracy, the study author and an assistant professor of epidemiology and public health at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

Currently, two vaccines are marketed in the United States: Cervarix and Gardasil. Both vaccines guard against the two strains of HPV responsible for most cases of cervical cancer in the world.

In this country, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines state that 11-and 12-year-old girls are the best candidates for the vaccine.  

Click here to read about African-American women’s concerns  regarding the HPV vaccine.