PHARMACY

Report: HPV vaccination rates remain too low to achieve cancer prevention potential

BY Sandra Levy

Although the human papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine uptake has improved in recent years, underuse of the HPV vaccine remains a serious threat to progress against cancer in the United States, according to a report released Thursday by the President’s Cancer Panel Chair.

The report, “HPV Vaccination for Cancer Prevention: Progress, Opportunities, and a Renewed Call to Action,” finds that while there has been demonstrated progress in HPV vaccine uptake in the United States over the past five years, vaccination rates remain unacceptably low and well below the government’s Healthy People 2020 goal of 80% of age-eligible adolescents.

The panel chair concludes that recent, notable strides must be amplified and expanded, and recommends several steps to increase HPV vaccination both in the United State, as well as globally.

“We have a safe, effective vaccine that protects against a cancer-causing virus, and we applaud the efforts of cancer and immunization leaders joining forces and rising to the challenge of accelerating HPV vaccine uptake,” chair of the President’s Cancer Panel Barbara Rimer said in a statement. “Yet, the fact remains, that this vaccine remains seriously underutilized — we are still missing opportunities to prevent cancer and save lives.”

In its 2012-2013 report, “Accelerating HPV Vaccine Uptake: Urgency for Action to Prevent Cancer,” the President’s Cancer Panel issued a call for action that was later echoed in other high-profile reports, including 2015 and 2018 reports from the National Vaccine Advisory Committee and 2016 reports from the Cancer Moonshot Blue Ribbon Panel and Cancer Moonshot Task Force.

On average, the percentage of adolescents who started the HPV vaccine series increased five percentage points each year between 2013 and 2017. Yet, as of 2017, less than half of U.S. adolescents were fully vaccinated. In addition, HPV vaccines are not included in the national vaccine programs of many low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur.

The Panel Chair concluded that that provider- and system-level changes have the greatest potential to increase U.S. HPV vaccination rates, and that partnerships and collaborations among key stakeholders are essential for sustaining momentum and expanding the reach of this urgent call to action.

The Panel Chair also urges renewed action around the following goals: reduce missed clinical opportunities to recommend and administer the HPV vaccine; increase parents’ acceptance of HPV vaccination; maximize access to HPV vaccination services; and promote global HPV vaccine uptake.

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