Evidence continues to mount that the HPV vaccine dramatically reduces the risk of cervical cancer, the most common cancer in young women. A recent study published in The Lancet journal showed that girls 12 to 13 years of age receiving HPV vaccine had an 87% risk reduction for cervical cancer and a 97% risk reduction for carcinoma in situ.*
Another important point from this study is that the younger a girl was when receiving the vaccine, the greater her reduction in cancer risk. This correlates with multiple other studies showing that the earlier the vaccine is given, the better the immune response. These important factors support the 11-12 year old age recommendation for HPV vaccination, and why children starting the vaccine after age 15 are recommended to receive an additional dose.
The robust and prolonged immune response is also encouraging for boys receiving the HPV vaccine and indicates a similar reduction in lifelong cancer risks.
Despite the proven success and safety of the vaccine, hesitancy does remain high with many families. However, pediatric providers do have tremendous influence. This is demonstrated by the marked variability in HPV vaccine rates among practices in our region – with some offices vaccinating up to 80% of their pediatric patients by age 13, and others less than 10%. These substantial variances cannot be attributed simply to different levels of hesitancy. It’s apparent that they also represent differences in how practices are recommending the vaccine.
As a fellow pediatrician, I encourage you to reinforce the importance of the HPV vaccine and to reassure parents or guardians of its safety and efficacy. As a reminder, this vaccine is recommended by age 11 or 12 for all patients, in the same manner as mandated vaccines.
Information on improving HPV vaccine rates for your practice is available at AAP.org or CDC.gov. Your CDPHP Enhanced Primary Care (EPC) provider engagement specialist will also be happy to assist you.
*”The effects of the national HPV vaccination programme in England, UK, on cervical cancer and grade 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia incidence: a register-based observational study.” Milena Falcaro, Alejandra Castañon, Busani Ndlela, Marta Checchi, Kate Soldan, Jamie Lopez-Bernal, Lucy Elliss-Brookes, Peter Sasieni. The Lancet, December 4, 2021.