SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The public health director for five southwest Utah counties said his department’s clinics do not offer the vaccine for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, because of high costs and low demand.
The vaccine Gardasil is not required but the Utah Department of Health has recommended it for preteen girls since 2006 and boys since 2011.
Southwest Public Department of Health Director David Blodgett said he decided not to offer the vaccine at the clinics in Beaver, Iron, Garfield, Kane and Washington counties years ago.
The vaccine is too expensive and there’s little public appetite in the area for the vaccine, he said.
The most recent immunization survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows Utah ranks last in the nation for completion of the three-dose vaccine, the Salt Lake Tribune reported (http://bit.ly/1d5ai6A ).
In 2011, 42 percent of those in Utah who started the vaccine finished the injection series, while nationally about 71 percent of those who started completed the series.
About 53 percent of Utah girls between ages 13 and 17 had at least one dose of the vaccine in 2011, according to the survey.
Blodgett told The Associated Press that shortly after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil in 2006, his clinics offered the vaccine for about six months, but the demand was so low that they were wasting doses.
There was also community opposition to the vaccine, Blodgett said, with local residents voicing concerns that there wasn’t enough research on the vaccine and that giving it to girls at age 11 or 12 might encourage promiscuity if those who have been immunized might think they can’t get a disease.
Dr. William Cosgrove, a member of Utah’s Scientific Immunization Advisory Committee, said there’s research to dispute those concerns.
Cosgrove told the Tribune that Gardasil is safe and can effectively prevent sexually transmitted viruses that are the cause of 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.
Blodgett said he’s not convinced that there’s enough research on the vaccine’s effectiveness, and with a limited budget, he decided not to offer the drug.
The vaccine’s three injections cost $360, and while a federal program can help covert that cost for very low-income families, Blodgett said his clinics still incur the costs of providing and delivering the vaccine.
Patients in those southwest Utah counties can still get the vaccine at private clinics.
Information from: The Salt Lake Tribune, http://www.sltrib.com