Cancer Vaccinations

The benefit of HPV vaccination

In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccination have become a hot button issue. This is true even for non-COVID vaccines that have proven significant health benefits, such as those for human papillomavirus vaccines (HPV). Although betweeen 2016 and 2021 the share of teenagers receiving their HPV vaccination series increased from 60% to 77%, Bloomberg and Washington Post write that:

HPV vaccinations among teens in the US dropped precipitously during the early pandemic, a disappointing reversal for shots that can prevent more than 33,000 cases of cancer each year…Disruptions to routine doctor visits and shifting priorities during appointments meant that about 1 million doses were missed in 2020. Data from CDC’s annual survey of teen vaccinations suggests at least a partial recovery in 2021, but we won’t have complete data until next year.

This is despite proven health benefits.

…there’s no doubt about the benefit of these shots: The HPV vaccine can nearly eliminate cases of cervical cancer, and have a profound impact on many others, including anal, penile, vaginal, vulvar and certain head and neck cancers.

A study published this month by St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital analyzed key factors driving HPV vaccination rates in the US as well as the potential economic benefits.

Increased HPV vaccination series completion and reduced HPV cancer incidence resulting from addressing these policy factors could reduce national direct health care expenditures by more than $26 million.

The report also makes a series of recommendations including:

  1. Leverage meningococcal conjugate vaccination as a model for HPV vaccination education and recommendations
  2. Expand health care provider and practice staff education and training related to HPV vaccination and strengthen HPV vaccination recommendations for parents and caregivers
  3. Improve efforts to recruit various types of health care providers at the state level and enroll them in the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program
  4. Expand the resources available to improve HPV vaccination data collection and reporting through state immunization information systems (IISs)
  5. Engage in efforts to preserve and expand eligibility for Medicaid

The study was authored by researchers at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Heather M. Brandt, Rob Clark , and Andrea Stubbs) along with a number of my colleagues at FTI Consulting (Citseko Staples Miller, Susan Henley Manning, Sabiha Quddus, Kristy Pultorak, Sherry Wang, Danielle Poindexter, Ashley Warren, Ronelle Green). You can read the full report here.

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