HPV causes nearly 630,000 cancers worldwide each year, including nearly 34,000 in the United States. The majority of these cancers could be prevented by HPV vaccination. In its 2012-2013 report, the President’s Cancer Panel found that underuse of HPV vaccines was a serious but correctable threat to progress against cancer and identified several goals to increase uptake.
There has been very encouraging progress in HPV vaccine uptake in the United States and globally over the last five years. However, HPV vaccination rates are still too low to achieve the full potential for cancer prevention. As of 2017, less than half of U.S. adolescents were fully vaccinated. In addition, HPV vaccines are not included in the national vaccine programs of many low- and middle-income countries, where the vast majority of cervical cancer cases and deaths occur. In this report, the Panel Chair identifies strategies for building on recent progress and overcoming persistent barriers to vaccine uptake. While local cultural factors and available resources should inform efforts to increase HPV vaccination, knowledge and experience suggest that the following priorities likely will have the greatest population-level impact.
Provider- and systems-level changes hold the greatest potential to increase U.S. HPV vaccination rates. Provider recommendation is one of the strongest predictors of adolescent HPV vaccine uptake, but some providers give weak or unclear recommendations. Providers should clearly and strongly recommend same-day vaccination of all eligible adolescents. Systems-level changes that prioritize HPV vaccination and provide easy access to the vaccine also would reduce missed clinical opportunities to recommend and administer the HPV vaccine. Such interventions would contribute strongly to increasing HPV vaccine coverage to the same levels as for other adolescent vaccines.
Partnerships and collaborations are essential. Diverse groups of stakeholders—including cancer control and immunization experts and organizations, health professional organizations, government agencies, advocacy organizations, and others—have partnered to overcome barriers to HPV vaccination. These partnerships have been key to many of the successes achieved over the past few years. Stakeholders should continue to engage in and support collaborations to accelerate progress in HPV vaccine uptake.
Progress and momentum built over the past half decade have created a compelling opportunity to increase HPV vaccine uptake further and dramatically reduce—and perhaps eventually largely eliminate—the preventable burden of HPV cancers. The elements of success are at hand: evidence of the benefits of HPV vaccination is strong and growing, numerous stakeholders are committed to the cause, and the knowledge and tools to increase vaccination coverage are available. Now is the time to apply what is known to ensure that today’s young people and future generations are protected against HPV cancers. Cancer and immunization stakeholders worldwide must renew their collective commitment to achieving HPV vaccination targets. All should rally without hesitation around the ultimate goal of cancer prevention.