WASHINGTON — Immunization rates for a vaccine that protects teens against a cancer-causing virus are improving.

According to new data from the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC), about 65 percent of Washington teens were vaccinated against HPV in 2016, compared to just 56 percent in 2015. That’s great news, according to state and federal health experts. However, according to a state Department of Health news release, “most of the state’s teen vaccination rates are below where they should be for optimal health and protection against vaccine-preventable illnesses.”

After years of collaboration, public health agencies and local healthcare providers are thrilled to see more teens protected against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that can lead to certain cancers, including cervical cancer. However, many recipients still aren’t getting all the needed doses. Only 44 percent of Washington’s adolescent boys are up-to-date on the HPV vaccination, while about 55 percent of adolescent girls are-up-to-date.

State health officials are concerned that vaccination rates for HPV are lower than for other vaccines, the press release said. In 2016, almost 87 percent of teens received a Tdap vaccine and about 75 percent received at least one dose of meningococcal vaccine.

State and federal health experts say all three vaccines should be given at the same time. The national goal is to have 80 percent of teens up to date on Tdap, meningococcal, and HPV vaccines by the year 2020.

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