Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island reports significant increase in teen vaccinations


PROVIDENCE, RI – Rhode Island leads the nation in teen-specific vaccination rates according to a recently released Health of America Report sponsored by the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, in partnership with HealthCore and Blue Health Intelligence.

The report finds that Rhode Island bucks the national trend when it comes to adolescent vaccination rates. Most significantly, while human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccination rates have risen substantially, just 34 percent of commercially insured adolescent members received an initial dose of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended HPV vaccination in 2016. In Rhode Island, a state that in 2015 began mandating the HPV vaccination for entrance to 7th grade, the number was 78 percent - the highest in the nation.

According to Katherine Dallow, M.D., MPH, vice president of clinical affairs at BCBSRI, adolescent vaccination rates are an important metric in the prevention of serious infectious diseases, as HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States with 30,000 cases diagnosed each year. “Completion of the HPV vaccine regimen for adolescents is a crucial step to protect against future infections, as the CDC estimates 31,500 deaths from cancers relating to the HPV virus occur each year,” said Dallow. “All adolescents ought to take advantage of this affordable vaccine that prevents cancer and has minimal side effects.”

The seven-year Health of America study examined medical claims for vaccination rates of U.S. commercially insured adolescents between 2010 and 2016. The study focused on three vaccines recommended by the CDC for adolescents: meningococcal; HPV; and tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (Tdap).

Over the seven-year period, there was growth seen nationally in rates for all three vaccines, with the HPV vaccine typically lagging substantially behind the other two vaccines. In a complete counter-trend, Rhode Island’s teen vaccination rates soared, especially in the area of HPV, which can be attributed to the mandate. Rhode Island is one of only two states and the District of Columbia to pass a mandate for the HPV vaccine.

Nationally, rates increased over time for all three CDC-recommended vaccines for adolescents completing their vaccinations in 2016 compared to adolescents completing their vaccinations in 2013, with Tdap increasing 8 percent, meningococcal increasing 18 percent and HPV increasing 55 percent.

When the vaccines were studied individually, adolescent vaccination rates varied widely for all three vaccinations across the U.S. Tdap rates ranged from a high of 93 percent in Rhode Island to a low of 53 percent in Wyoming, while first-dose rates for the HPV vaccine ranged from a high of 78 percent in Rhode Island to 21 percent in New Jersey.

In 2016, the national average comparison to Rhode Island was:
• HPV first-dose: nationally, 34 percent; Rhode Island, 78 percent
• Meningococcal: nationally, 78 percent, Rhode Island, 93 percent
• Tdap: nationally, 84 percent; Rhode Island, 93 percent

While Rhode Island is leading the charge when it comes to teen vaccinations, Dallow looks to this study as a reminder of the importance of continued proactive action against preventable diseases. “BCBSRI supports health care advances like vaccinations to protect the health of members and the communities we serve,” said Dallow. “We believe parents should follow recommendations from the CDC, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the vast majority of the medical community, all of which agree that vaccines are safe and effective.”

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