Joint statement urges parents, young adults and physicians to act to increase vaccination rates
Cold Spring Harbor, NY — In response to low national vaccination rates for the human papillomavirus (HPV), Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) has joined 68 other top cancer centers in issuing a statement urging increased HPV vaccination for the prevention of cancer.
The institutions say they collectively recognize insufficient vaccination as a public health threat and call upon the nation’s physicians, parents and young adults to take advantage of this rare opportunity to prevent many types of cancer. About 79 million people in the US are now infected with HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 14 million new infections occur each year.
CSHL Cancer Center Director Dr. Bruce Stillman was pleased to rally with fellow NCI-designated Cancer Center directors in support of vaccination for HPV. “I am familiar with the huge success for adoption of HPV vaccination in Australia. Based on that track record, I hope that we can achieve increased vaccination rates in the U.S. to protect our young people against cancer.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV infections are responsible for approximately 27,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the US. Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of cervical, anal, oropharyngeal (middle throat) and other genital cancers.
Vaccination rates remain low across the US, with under 40 percent of girls and just over 21 percent of boys receiving the recommended three doses. This falls far short of the goal of 80 percent by the end of this decade, set by the US Department of Health and Human Service’s Healthy People 2020 mission. US rates are significantly lower than in Australia (75 percent), the United Kingdom (84-92 percent) and Rwanda (93 percent), which have shown that high vaccination rates are currently achievable.
National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer centers joined in this effort in the spirit of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union call for a national “moonshot” to cure cancer, a collaborative effort led by Vice President Joe Biden. CSHL has been an NCI-designated cancer center since 1987.
“This initiative is directly aligned with the desire of the President, Vice President and all Americans to work constructively together to eradicate cancer,” says Ernest Hawk, M.D., vice president and division head, Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. “This is one example of actions that can be taken today to make a very big difference in the future cancer burden.”
Research shows there are a number of barriers to overcome to improve vaccination rates, including a lack of strong recommendations from physicians and parents not understanding that this vaccine protects against several types of cancer.
To discuss strategies for overcoming these barriers, experts from the NCI, CDC, the American Cancer Society and more than half of the NCI-designated cancer centers met in a summit at MD Anderson Cancer Center last November. During this summit, cancer centers shared findings from 18 NCI-funded environmental scans, or detailed regional assessments, which sought to identify barriers to increasing immunization rates in pediatric settings across the country.
The published call to action was a major recommendation resulting from discussions at that summit, with the goal of sending a powerful message to parents, adolescents and health care providers about the importance of HPV vaccination for cancer prevention.
CDC recommends that boys and girls receive three doses of HPV vaccine at ages 11 or 12 years. The HPV vaccine series can be started in preteens as early as age 9 and should be completed before the 13th birthday. The HPV vaccine is more effective the earlier it is given; however, it is also recommended for young women until age 26 and young men until age 21.
About Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory
Founded in 1890, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory has shaped contemporary biomedical research and education with programs in cancer, neuroscience, plant biology and quantitative biology. Home to eight Nobel Prize winners, the private, not-for-profit Laboratory employs 1,100 people including 600 scientists, students and technicians. The Meetings & Courses Program annually hosts more than 12,000 scientists. The Laboratory’s education arm also includes an academic publishing house, a graduate school and the DNA Learning Center with programs for middle and high school students and teachers. For more information, visit www.cshl.edu