On July 30, CDC released the results of the National Immunization Survey—Teen module, providing important information about the state of adolescent immunization coverage in the United States. The survey, conducted via phone with additional follow up with providers to confirm individuals’ immunization history, showed that progress has been made in increasing coverage for all three of the recommended adolescent vaccines (HPV, Tdap, and MCV4); however, HPV coverage remains well below targets, particularly for males.
HPV vaccination prevents the leading causes of cervical, oropharyngeal, anal, vulvar, vaginal, and penile cancer as well as some types of genital warts and is routinely recommended for both males and females ages 11-12 years old. Given the low levels of coverage and the high effectiveness of the vaccine, CDC, as well as other leading public health and medical organizations including the President’s Cancer Panel, have progressively focused attention and resources on increasing HPV vaccination coverage.
The results of the National Immunization Survey—Teen module described in the July 31 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report also highlighted several states and local areas with large increases in HPV rates. Strategies identified for immunization programs to improve HPV vaccination coverage include:
- Incorporating HPV vaccination into cancer control plans;
- Joint initiatives with cancer prevention and immunization stakeholders;
- Public communications campaigns;
- Immunization information system-based reminder/recall;
- Assessment and feedback activities;
- Practice-focused strategies to educate staff and provide input on how to improve HPV vaccination within the practice; and
- Using all opportunities to educate clinicians and parents about the importance of on-time HPV vaccination.
These strategies were determined to significantly contribute to the increases in HPV vaccination coverage in six jurisdictions that demonstrated improvement in both first dose and series completion among females.
According to NACCHO’s National Profile of Local Health Departments 2013 survey, 90% of local health departments provide adult and childhood immunizations. While local health departments can be important providers of immunizations in many communities, patients should seek care at their primary care providers’ office first and then look to complimentary locations such as schools and pharmacies. However, there are many ways that local health departments can help increase local HPV vaccination rates, including the following:
- Assess adolescent vaccination coverage in the community and within provider offices and give feedback to providers on how they can help increase vaccination rates.
- Share information with medical providers about the importance of recommending the HPV vaccine routinely with the same emphasis as other adolescent vaccines per CDC’s recommendations.
- Identify potential opportunities for collaboration with state cancer and immunization programs.
- Develop or support policies that encourage routine and timely immunization for all members of the community; see NACCHO’s “Increasing HPV Vaccination Rates in Males and Females” policy statement for more information.
- Communicate with the public about the importance of vaccinating their children according to the recommended schedule.
- Learn from the ongoing work of NACCHO’s HPV Vaccination Project and the local health departments funded through this project.
- Check out the many HPV resources available in NACCHO’s Guide to HPV Resources for Local Health Departments.