HPV Vaccination: Just Do It

Summary and Comment |
January 31, 2013

HPV Vaccination: Just Do It

  1. Anna Wald, MD, MPH

Despite the rising incidence of some HPV-related cancers, vaccine coverage rates remain low.

  1. Anna Wald, MD, MPH

Although the overall incidence of cancer continues to decline in U.S. men and women, a new annual report from the American Cancer Society, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Cancer Institute, and North American Association of Central Cancer Registries shows that rates of certain human papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers (anus, oropharynx) have risen from 2000 to 2009. These malignancies — along with cervical cancer, which represents more than half of all HPV-related cancers in women — disproportionately affect blacks and low-income individuals, and are the very cancers that could eventually be eliminated by routine use of the prophylactic HPV-16/18 vaccine.

HPV vaccine uptake among adolescent women continues to be suboptimal: Nationally, only 32% of adolescent girls (age range, 13–17) have received all three recommended doses. Such coverage is lowest among teens and young women who live in the southeast (20%) and among the uninsured (14%); in general, however, vaccine uptake has not varied substantially by race and ethnicity. Of note, populations with low vaccine uptake also have low rates of cytologic screening for cervical cancer.


Human papillomavirus vaccine uptake in the U.S. faces several challenges, including fragmented healthcare, high cost, and the inaccurate perception that the vaccine may encourage sexual activity (JW Pediatr Adolesc Med Oct 31 2012). Moreover, parental religious beliefs may still impede vaccination of girls who have not yet initiated sexual activity. A manufacturer-sponsored patient assistance program provides quadrivalent HPV vaccine free to women below a certain income level; still, lack of insurance coverage, poverty, and religious beliefs triangulate to result in low HPV vaccine coverage, especially in the southeast.


Reader Comments (2)

BRITTANNIA RODANICHE Physician, Obstetrics/Gynecology, Republic of Panama

The vaccine protects against 4 of the 100 HPV Patients should be informed about this becaquse the vaccine will not protect against the other 96 HPV viruses.

Victor Kantariya MD Physician, Family Medicine/General Practice

Increases in incidence rates for two HPV-associated cancer ( oropharynx, anus), that is why the need for additional prevention efforts for HPV-related cancers.

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