Vaccinations have declined during the COVID-19 pandemic, but an American Cancer Society aims to boost HPV immunization for cancer prevention with a renewed campaign.
The American Cancer Society (ACS) is renewing a campaign to eliminate human papillomavirus (HPV) cancers as a public health problem, starting with cervical cancer. Renewal of the campaign, Mission: HPV Cancer Free, is an effort to boost public health and help keep vaccinations on track during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.
The ongoing pandemic has created unprecedented challenges for health care providers, patients, and policymakers. One outcome from the past few months is declines in vaccination. A recent report published by the nonprofit Commonwealth Fund showed a 71% drop in health care visits for individuals aged 7 to 17 years. These are ages when critical vaccines such as Tdap, HPV, and meningitis are given, and immunization declines put children and communities at greater risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, according to the ACS.
HPV is a common virus that can cause 6 types of cancer. About 14 million people in the United States become infected with HPV each year. Eight of 10 people will get HPV at some point in their lifetime. Most infections become undetectable, but some can go on to cause cancer. HPV infection has no treatment, but a vaccine can prevent it.
"Just 2 doses of this vaccine, given to kids at age 9-12, can prevent over 90% of HPV cancers," said Debbie Saslow, PhD, managing director, HPV & GYN Cancers for the ACS, in a prepared statement.
HPV vaccination works best when given between ages 9 and 12 years. Vaccination at the recommended ages will prevent more cancers than vaccination at older ages. Children and young adults aged 13 through 26 years who have not been vaccinated, or who haven't gotten all their doses, should get the vaccine as soon as possible. Both boys and girls can get infected with HPV. HPV vaccination helps protect boys from cancers of the throat, penis, and anus later in life. HPV vaccination helps protect girls from cancers of the cervix, throat, vagina, vulva, and anus later in life.
The goal of Mission: HPV Cancer Free is to reach a vaccination rate in the United States of 80% of individuals aged 13 years by 2026.
The American Cancer Society Campaign Aims to Increase HPV Vaccination During Pandemic [news release]. August 3, 2020; Atlanta, GA; ACS website. http://pressroom.cancer.org/2020-08-03-The-American-Cancer-Society-Campaign-Aims-to-Increase-HPV-Vaccination-During-PandemicAccessed August 3, 2020.