Prioritize HPV vaccine for children, adolescents this summer

HPV vaccination coverage among adolescents already lagged that of other recommended vaccines, and the COVID-19 pandemic worsened it further. Now, 72 U.S. cancer centers are urging parents and doctors to prioritize getting kids back on track with the vaccine this summer.

Adolescents have missed more than 1 million doses of HPV vaccine since March 2020, according to a May 20 joint statement of 72 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers, shared with Becker’s. Compared to pre-pandemic levels, that means a 21 percent decrease in publicly funded doses, and a 12 percent decrease for adolescents with private insurance.

“We risk having a lost generation of children who are at unnecessary risk of HPV cancers completely preventable through vaccination,” said Noel Brewer, PhD, of Chapel Hill, NC-based UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center. “Parents and caregivers should prioritize the HPV vaccine and other vaccines for adolescents this summer,” added Dr. Brewer, who is also a professor of behavioral health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health.

The COVID-19 vaccine, recently approved for children ages 12-15, can be given alongside the HPV vaccine, along with other recommended vaccines, according to the CDC.

Health systems and healthcare providers should contact those who are behind on vaccinations and “use every opportunity to encourage and complete vaccination,” the statement said.

The HPV vaccine has been recommended for girls since 2006 and for boys since 2011. Routine vaccination can start between the ages of 9 and 12, with catch-up vaccination recommended up to age 26 and possibly up to age 45 for some.

A recent study also found that while cervical cancer rates have declined annually for the past 17 years, largely due to screening and HPV vaccination guidelines, oropharyngeal and other HPV-related cancers are on the rise.

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