Leading Medical and Public Health Organizations Join Efforts Urging Physicians to Strongly Recommend Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination

St. Paul, Minnesota–Four leading national medical associations—the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American College of Physicians (ACP), and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)—together with the Immunization Action Coalition and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have issued a call urging physicians across the United States to educate their patients about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and to strongly recommend HPV vaccination.

In the “Dear Colleague” letter issued today, medical and public health organizations emphasize to physicians that strong health provider recommendations are critical to increasing the rate of HPV vaccination and preventing HPV-associated cancers. Despite more than seven years of vaccine monitoring showing overwhelming evidence of HPV vaccine safety and effectiveness, HPV vaccination rates are not improving while rates for other adolescent vaccines are.

In the U.S. alone, 79 million people are currently infected with HPV. Every year, 14 million are newly infected and 26,000 cancers attributable to HPV are diagnosed. Studies show that when a provider strongly recommends HPV vaccination, patients are 4 to 5 times more likely to receive the HPV vaccine. It is time for physicians to strongly recommend the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical and other cancers.

“What you say matters, and how you say it matters even more,” says IAC Executive Director Dr. Deborah Wexler. “A lukewarm recommendation may lead people to perceive HPV vaccination as less important than other vaccines.”

Reid Blackwelder, MD, President, AAFP states, “It’s astonishing that despite a remarkable effectiveness record, only around a third of US adolescent girls complete HPV vaccination. Countries like Rwanda are immunizing more than four out of five adolescent girls. We’ve got to do better in the United States.”

“The American Academy of Pediatrics recognizes that parents have many questions about the HPV vaccine,” said James M. Perrin, MD, FAAP, president of the AAP. “It’s important for providers to be able to engage in dialogue, answer questions, and still provide a strong recommendation for the vaccine. Even with parents who have questions, a health care provider recommendation is the most influential factor in parents’ decisions to vaccinate.”

“We must not lose track of the fact that this vaccine prevents cervical—and a number of other—cancers. It is most effective when given before infection with HPV. We are urging all physicians to recommend HPV vaccination firmly and strongly for the unvaccinated and incompletely immunized young men and women in their practices,” said Molly Cooke, MD, FACP, president, ACP.

“As ob-gyns, we have a responsibility to encourage our patients to help protect themselves against cervical cancer by getting the HPV vaccine,” said Jeanne A. Conry, MD, PhD, ACOG President. “We should be routinely recommending the vaccine for all of our adolescent patients as well as women up through age 26, even if they are already sexually active. In addition, we want to encourage our patients who are mothers to vaccinate their sons and daughters at 11-12 years.”

“For each year that vaccination rates among girls stay at 30% instead of 80%, 4,400 future cervical cancer cases and 1,400 cervical cancer deaths will occur,” stated CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH. “CDC has created many resources to help providers address parent questions effectively so that they can strongly recommend the HPV vaccine.”

Health provider recommendations are the key to increasing HPV vaccination rates. By improving the strength and consistency of HPV vaccination recommendations, more patients will be protected from HPV-associated cancers and diseases.

Accompanying Dear Colleague Letter

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