President’s Cancer Panel report
Today, the President’s Cancer Panel (PCP) announces the issue of its report, Accelerating HPV Vaccine Update: Urgency for Action to Prevent Cancer. It’s the first official statement for the current PCP team that includes Owen Witte, MD, Hill Harper, JD, and me. A number of other people and organizations – listed on the PCP website – were also contributors. They made the product better.
Findings: there are two extremely safe and effective HPV vaccines (Cervarix and Gardasil). More than 56 million doses have been given, with proven safety. HPV vaccines protect adolescents against future HPV-associated cervical cancers, oropharyngeal cancers, several other cancers and genital warts.
Yet, these remarkable vaccines are greatly under-used. Only about one-third of age-eligible girls and 7 percent of boys have completed the three-dose regimen. The U.S. is behind several other countries in uptake.
As several recent CDC reports have shown, the slow uptake of HPV vaccines is not due primarily to inability to pay, media hype or parents’ fears. It is due to missed opportunities. Most of the girls (the longest-term data are on girls) who haven’t been vaccinated against HPV visited physicians’ offices and received other adolescent vaccines, but they did not receive HPV vaccines. That’s a real shame.
When we protect our adolescents against some future life-threatening diseases (meningitis) but not others (HPV-associated conditions and diseases), we lose an important opportunity. We’ve failed to invest in the best health protection for our children. It’s not too late for many, since HPV vaccines can be given until age 26 for females and 21 for males. Still, earlier is better — ideally, at age 11 or 12. These vaccines are medical success stories. The promise of public health remains to be achieved, but it can be realized if we work together to make increasing HPV vaccine uptake a priority.
Happy Monday, Barbara
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