Sixty-nine top cancer centers from around the country, including the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins and the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center, have issued a joint statement Wednesday encouraging more parents to bring their children in for what is known as the HPV vaccine. The centers have joined forces to urge more widespread use of the vaccine to treat the human papillomavirus, which can lead to deadly cervical, throat and other cancers. They called the potential spread of the virus a ‘public health threat’ and urged doctors to be advocates on the issue.
According to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control, about 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and that the sexually transmitted virus causes 14 million new infections each year. Researchers note that the body's immune system fights off the HPV virus in most cases, but some strains lead to genital cancers, such as cervical and penile. The centre officials report that the HPV vaccination represents a rare opportunity to prevent many cases of cancer that is tragically underused. The group reports their joint measure is the best defense in stopping HPV infection among youth and preventing HPV-related cancers in our communities.
The cancer centers, all part of the National Cancer Institute and considered leaders in research, hope their move will emphasize the importance of the vaccine and erase some of the stigma associated with it. Elizabeth Platz, who leads the cancer prevention and control programs at the Sidney Kimmel center, said the HPV vaccine is safe and effective. The vaccine is given to adolescents before they become sexually active to prevent cancer from developing when they become adults. The vaccine was introduced first by Merck & Co. in 2006 first for girls and later for boys, but its use remains well below what many in the medical community say is effective.
According to the 2015 report by the CDC, just 40% of girls and 21% of boys in the United States are receiving the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine. This falls far short of an 80% goal by the end of this decade set by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The United States is far behind other countries in its use of the vaccine, including Australia, where 75% of children are vaccinated, and the United Kingdom, where 84 to 92% of kids receive it.