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HPV Vaccine Underused, But Policies Can Improve Rate, Experts Say

HPV Vaccine Underused, But Policies Can Improve Rate, Experts Say

November 3, 2014 — In a recent U.S. News & World Report column, health care experts commented on the slow uptake of a vaccine for the human papillomavirus and recommended ways to increase use of the vaccine (Crane, U.S. News & World Report, 10/30).

According to CDC, 79 million U.S. residents have HPV, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country, and there are 14 million new cases each year. The virus has been linked to cervical, vaginal, penile and anal cancers. The number of girls receiving the full dosage of the human papillomavirus vaccine increased by about four percentage points between 2012 and 2013, but the overall rate remains well short of CDC's 80% vaccination goal, according to research from the agency (Women's Health Policy Report, 7/25).

Experts Discuss Slow Uptake, How To Boost Rates

Rodney Willoughby, an HPV prevention specialist at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, said uptake of the vaccine has been slow because of HPV's association with sex. The vaccine's "sex-associated ... label tainted the vaccine early on," he said, adding, "It's a cancer vaccine and should be treated as such."

Health experts have also suggested several tactics to increase HPV vaccination rates, according to U.S. News and World Report.

For example, Susan Vadaparampil, a researcher at the Moffitt Cancer Center, said cancer specialists could increase vaccination rates by visiting family health care providers to educate them and their patients about the significance of preventing cancer. She also said physicians could increase rates by including the HPV vaccine as a routine part of children's immunizations.

Fellow Moffitt Cancer Center researcher Anna Giuliano said vaccination rates might improve if schools required it for admission. "If a vaccine is required for school entry, then you see very high levels of uptake," she said, adding, "For those that are not required, it's rare to see uptake beyond 50 percent" (U.S. News & World Report, 10/30).