TAMPA, Fla. — Moffitt Cancer Center has partnered with 70 other National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers urging the nation’s physicians, parents and young adults to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination back on track.
Dramatic drops in annual well visits and immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a significant vaccination gap and lag in vital preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents, especially for the HPV vaccine.
Nearly 80 million Americans — 1 out of every 4 people — are infected with HPV, a virus that causes several types of cancers. Of those millions, more than 31,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV infections, HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower than other recommended adolescent vaccines in the U.S. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, HPV vaccination rates lagged far behind other vaccines and other countries’ HPV vaccination rates. According to 2017 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than half (49%) of adolescents were up to date on the HPV vaccine.
Those numbers have declined dangerously since the pandemic:
- Early in the pandemic, HPV vaccination rates among adolescents fell by 75%, resulting in a large cohort of unvaccinated children.
- Since March 2020, an estimated 1 million doses of HPV vaccine have been missed by adolescents with public insurance, a decline of 21% over pre-pandemic levels.
“The U.S. is facing a significant vaccination gap, especially for adolescents, due to the pandemic,” said Susan Vadaparampil, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate center director of Community Outreach, Engagement and Equity at Moffitt. “Well-child visits are down. We have an opportunity to get back on track with vaccination for adolescents, particularly as we plan for back to school. Health care providers and health care systems are in an ideal position to lead these efforts and ensure we protect our children and communities.”
The U.S. has recommended routine HPV vaccination for females since 2006, and for males since 2011. Current recommendations are for routine vaccination at ages 11 or 12 but can start as early as age 9. Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended through age 26.
NCI-designated cancer centers strongly encourage parents to vaccinate their adolescents as soon as possible. The CDC recently authorized COVID-19 vaccination for 12- to 15-year-old children, allowing for missed doses of routinely recommended vaccines, including HPV, to be administered at the same time. NCI-designated cancer centers strongly urge health care systems and providers to identify and contact adolescents due for vaccinations and to use every opportunity to encourage and complete vaccination.
“HPV vaccination is cancer prevention. Now is the time to catch up on missed doses of HPV vaccine to prevent future cancers. Vaccinating our adolescents against COVID-19 is the perfect opportunity to ensure children are also protected from HPV,” said Anna Giuliano, Ph.D., director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt.
More information on HPV is available from the CDC and National HPV Vaccination Roundtable. This is the third time that all NCI-designated cancer centers have come together to issue a national call to action. All 71 cancer centers unanimously share the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for the elimination of HPV-related cancers.
Read this year's call to action here.
About Moffitt Cancer Center
Moffitt is dedicated to one lifesaving mission: to contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer. The Tampa-based facility is one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers, a distinction that recognizes Moffitt’s scientific excellence, multidisciplinary research, and robust training and education. Moffitt is the No. 11 cancer hospital and has been nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report since 1999. Moffitt’s expert nursing staff is recognized by the American Nurses Credentialing Center with Magnet® status, its highest distinction. With more than 7,000 team members, Moffitt has an economic impact in the state of $2.4 billion. For more information, call 1-888-MOFFITT (1-888-663-3488), visit MOFFITT.org, and follow the momentum on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.