Twelve years ago today, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) in the United States.
Although the vaccine has been proven to protect against seven strains of HPV that cause several cancers, vaccination rates in the U.S. and in Texas remain low.
In a renewed effort to promote the health benefits of the vaccine, the American Cancer Society this week launched a public awareness campaign to eliminate vaccine-preventable HPV cancers, starting with cervical cancer.
The goal of the campaign is for 80 percent of 13-year-old boys and girls in the U.S. to be fully vaccinated against HPV by 2026.
To help spread the word, Texas physicians are encouraged to recommend that patients receive the HPV vaccination on the same day as other vaccines.
“Many parents trust their child’s doctor and would choose to vaccinate if they received a strong recommendation,” the cancer society said.
In addition, physicians should know their practice’s baseline vaccination rates so they can better track future rates, should send out patient reminders of vaccination schedules, and should make parents aware that HPV vaccination is cancer prevention.
"I think physicians need to understand their leadership role, both in the community and with their patients, to recommend the vaccine," said David Lakey, MD, vice chancellor for health affairs and chief medical officer for The University of Texas System.
Last year, the UT System Office of Health Affairs released a report that shows Texas’ HPV vaccination rate to be among the lowest in the country.
In 2013, there was only a 0.5-percentage-point difference between the national rate of 34.6 percent and the state rate of 34.1 percent for young Texas males. By 2016, that gap had widened to 11.7 points: 56 percent nationally, and 44.3 percent in Texas.
For females in 2013, there was only a 1.1-percentage-point difference between the national rate of 57.3 percent and state rate of 56.2 percent. But by 2016, the national rate was 65.1 percent, while Texas’ rate was 54.5 percent, a 10.6-point gap.
Only four other states — Mississippi, South Carolina, Utah, and Wyoming — have lower HPV vaccination rates, the report says.
Find more information on HPV and efforts by the American Cancer Society and Texas Medical Association at cancer.org/HPV and TMA's HPV Resource Center.
Correction: This article was corrected to say that the HPV vaccine was approved 12 years previously.