November 27, 2021
Protection against HPV has fallen dramatically during the pandemic

Early during the pandemic, HPV vaccination rates among adolescents fell by 75%.

Economic Backbone - Pediatrics

Protection against HPV has fallen dramatically during the pandemic

Art Levy | 7/30/2021

Vaccinations have gotten an enormous amount of attention this year, as a result of the Moderna, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson vaccines that protect against COVID-19. But the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination — recommended for children and adolescents as a cancer-prevention tool — hasn’t gotten much attention at all.

Early during the pandemic, for example, HPV vaccination rates among adolescents fell by 75%, with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reporting that, since March 2020, an estimated 1 million doses of the HPV vaccine have been missed by adolescents with public insurance.

The consequences could be significant, says Susan Vadaparampil, associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement and Equity at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, and here’s why: Nearly 80 million Americans — or more than one out of every four people — are infected with HPV, a virus that can cause several types of cancer. Among those infected with the virus, about 31,000 are diagnosed annually with an HPV-related cancer.

Vadaparampil explains why the HPV vaccination gap grew during the pandemic and why the vaccine is such an important cancerfighting tool:

  • What happened? “The pandemic resulted in a substantial decrease of well-child visits, often timed with back-to-school appointments where vaccines are routinely delivered. As a result, many adolescents missed getting HPV and other routine recommended vaccines since the beginning of the pandemic. As these visits resume, it will be important to make sure all adolescents get back on track with recommended vaccinations, including HPV.”
  • Why is the HPV vaccine necessary? “This vaccine represents one of the few opportunities to prevent cancer, specifically those cancers that are caused by HPV infection. There have been millions of doses delivered worldwide that show the vaccine is safe and effective. I would wholeheartedly recommend that parents vaccinate their children. More importantly, I hope that health care providers who directly care for adolescents in this age group strongly and consistently recommend vaccination to their patients.”
  • Who should get the shot? “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends vaccinations be routinely given to adolescents ages 11-12. However, health care providers can vaccinate children starting at age 9 and provide catchup vaccinations for those up to age 26. More recent guidelines (have been) expanded to include vaccination for those ages 27-45, after discussion between the patient and their provider to determine the benefits.”

 

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