people who live in rural areas

Vaccination in Rural Communities

Close the gap.  Adolescents in rural areas are less likely to be vaccinated against HPV cancers and meningitis than teens in urban areas.  Use every opportunity to recommend vaccines for your patients.
In addition to a yearly flu vaccine, CDC recommends three vaccines for all preteen boys and girls:
  • Meningococcal conjugate vaccine to protect against meningitis
  • HPV vaccine to protect against HPV cancers
  • Tdap vaccine to protect against whooping cough

Nationally, HPV vaccination rates have been increasing in recent years, and rates of the first dose of meningococcal conjugate vaccination have been high for several years. However, fewer adolescents in rural areas are getting the HPV and meningococcal conjugate vaccines compared to adolescents in urban areas.

In 2017, the percentage of adolescents who received the first dose of the HPV vaccine was 11 percentage points lower in rural areas compared to urban areas. The percentage of adolescents receiving the first dose of the meningococcal conjugate vaccine was 7 percentage points lower in rural areas compared to urban areas.

What Can Rural Clinicians Do?

Clinicians in rural communities can play a critical role in their patients’ health by following three Rs:

  • Recommend and administer all vaccines for adolescents in the same way and on the same day.
  • Refer your adolescent patients to a provider who can administer vaccines, if you don’t have the ability to stock certain vaccines in your practice.
  • Record all the vaccines your patients receive, at your practice and through other immunization providers, to ensure they are up to date.

This difference may be due in part to the fact that there are fewer pediatricians in rural areas compared to urban areas. Clinicians in rural areas serve a broader population base and may be less familiar with adolescent vaccination recommendations and/or may be less likely to stock all recommended adolescent vaccines.

CDC has a number of resources to assist clinicians with having successful vaccine conversations and improving vaccination rates.

Page last reviewed: January 5, 2018