HPV vaccination rates in Utah are increasing more than 16% among young men and women, CDC data show


When life should have been full of possibilities, Mandy Murry instead faced a devastating diagnosis. Murry was diagnosed with cervical cancer at the age of 22. Her cervix and uterus were removed to treat him. Your doctor thinks the cancer was caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV).

“I was expected to have this happily ever after story of having my own kids,” says Murry, 41, who grew up in Utah and now lives in North Carolina. “I was unprepared for the depth of healing I needed after surgery. Without a womb, I felt ‘less than’. I didn’t feel worthy of happiness. I didn’t choose HPV. It was given to me due to unforeseen circumstances. The vaccine didn’t exist when I was young so this could have been prevented.”

HPV is a group of more than 200 related viruses, 40 of which are transmitted through direct sexual contact. It is the most common sexually transmitted infection and causes almost all cervical cancers, along with five other cancers: vaginal, vulvar, anal, penile and oropharyngeal (cancer of the throat and mouth). HPV vaccines, given in a series of shots, protect against HPV infection and cancer.

Utah, which typically ranks among the lowest in the United States for adequately vaccinated youth against HPV, has seen a 16.4% increase in this vaccine for young men and women since 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). aged 13 to 17 years. The state rose from rank 44th until 20th in the nation among first-dose HPV vaccinations.

“This is the highest increase I’ve ever seen in our state,” says Deanna Kepka, PhD, MPH, a researcher at the Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and director of the Intermountain West HPV Vaccination Coalition, a group of health professionals and community -Members working to improve HPV vaccination rates since 2012. Kepka suggests this shows changing attitudes towards the HPV vaccine, including an acknowledgment that people may have more than one sexual partner. “We are moving in the right direction. The truth is that life happens. A large proportion of marriages end in divorce, regardless of a person’s religious affiliation. It is best to protect children from the unexpected.”

According to the CDC, more young men are getting the HPV vaccine in Utah, with a 19.7% increase since 2021. The agency also found that throat cancer has surpassed cervical cancer as the most common HPV-related cancer, highlighting the importance of vaccinating both young men as well as young women.

The CDC recommends that all children and adults ages 9 to 26 get the HPV vaccine; although the HPV vaccine is most effective in early adolescence, between ages 9 and 12, according to the American Cancer Society.

Children build a stronger immune response. They are likely to be better protected if vaccinated at a young age.”

Kaila Christini, MsPH, MS, Program Manager, Kepka Group

Murry recommends all parents get their teens vaccinated against HPV. “You never know what’s going to happen in life. The vaccine is not a license for sexual activity. It can literally save you from getting cancer,” she says.

Shay Bilinski, Senior Director of Cancer Support Strategic Partnerships with the American Cancer Society, says: “There is still a lot to do. Getting your child vaccinated against HPV is the gift of cancer prevention. Don’t hesitate to make this gift.”

HPV vaccination is covered by most private health insurance companies. The Utah Vaccines for Children Program provides free or low-cost vaccines for children up to the age of 18 who are enrolled in Medicaid, CHIP, uninsured, or underinsured.

The cancer prevention work of Kepka and her team to support underserved, rural and border communities through community collaboration is an integral part of this effort. Her research and outreach are supported by the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.


Huntsman Cancer Institute


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