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HPV Vaccinations Declining Despite Evidence

On July 26, 2013 the Centers for Disease Control released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) about vaccinations for the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV.) The report states, "Although HPV vaccination coverage has lagged behind that of other vaccines recommended for adolescents, coverage among adolescent girls increased each year during 2007–2011; 2012 is the first year with no observed increase. In 2012, only 53.8% of girls had received ≥1 dose of HPV vaccine, and only 33.4% had received all 3 doses of the series. Despite the availability of safe and effective HPV vaccines, approximately one quarter of surveyed parents did not intend to vaccinate their daughters in the next 12 months. Missed vaccination opportunities remain high. Every health-care visit, whether for back-to school evaluations or acute problems, should be used to assess teenagers' immunization status and provide recommended vaccines if indicated."

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease.  There are several types of HPV.  Some can cause conditions including genital cancers and cancers to the head and neck region. HPV cancers in the head & neck region most often occur around the tonsillar pillars and base of the tongue making them difficult to diagnose at early stages.

The HPV vaccination is administered in 3 doses with the first dose recommended for girls ages 11-12. The vaccine is also recommended for men up to age 21 and women up to age 26 who did not receive it when they were younger. It is important that the vaccine is administered prior to the first sexual experience.

New research from the University of Toronto Professor Peter A. Newman indicated that promoting HPV vaccinations for boys ages 11-21 is vital to protecting both men and women. According to Newman, "...misinformation and unfounded vaccine fears can result in cancer deaths that could have been avoided with a simple vaccine."

It is our responsibility to provide information about HPV vaccines and cancer prevention to our patients. A printable informational brochure is available through the Mouth Cancer Foundation.

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