By David Beasley
ATLANTA (Reuters) - More U.S. adolescents are receiving vaccines against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical and other types of cancer but vaccination rates for the infection remain too low, federal health officials said on Thursday.
In 2013, 37.6 percent of girls ages 13-17 got the recommended three doses of the vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
That was up from 33.4 percent in 2012 but far short of the CDC's goal of an 80 percent vaccination rate, data showed.
"It’s frustrating to report almost the same HPV vaccination coverage levels among girls for another year," said Dr. Anne Schuchat, assistant surgeon general and director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
The percentage of boys receiving all three doses of the vaccine more than doubled, increasing to 13.9 percent in 2013 from 6.8 percent in 2012, according to data from the CDC's National Immunization Survey of teens.
Though the CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for all 11-year-old and 12-year-old boys and girls, the 2013 study found that doctors had not recommended it to one third of girls and more than half of boys.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, with 79 million U.S. residents currently infected and 14 million new cases every year, according to the health agency.
The virus can cause cervical, vaginal, penile and anal cancer. Each year, about 4,000 women in the United States die of cervical cancer, the CDC said.
"Pre-teens need HPV vaccine today to be protected from HPV cancers tomorrow," Schuchat said.
Parents cited a lack of knowledge about the vaccine and safety concerns as reasons for not having their children vaccinated, the CDC said.
The vaccine is safe, the CDC said. About 67 million doses have been distributed since it became available in 2006 for girls and 2009 for boys and no serious safety concerns have been linked to HPV vaccination, the agency said.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Bill Trott)