Deaths from cervical cancer are primarily among those with insufficient access to healthcare. Routine screening is effective but must be repeated and is expensive. If 80% of eligible adolescents receive two doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, we could reduce the need for adult screening and still come close to eliminating death from cervical cancer.
However, delivering the HPV vaccine has been challenging. In 2012, 5 years after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the vaccine, only 28% of girls had received both doses.
The President’s Cancer Panel focused on this poor completion in its report, which spurred the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to take action.
- The NCI Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences (DCCPS) worked with NCI-Designated Cancer Centers to investigate vaccine hesitancy and increase the completion of the HPV vaccine across the country. DCCPS offered supplement opportunities to boost the collection of local data, foster community collaborations, and combat misinformation. More than two thirds of comprehensive centers applied.
- For the first time, all cancer centers collectively supported an effort by endorsing the vaccine. Through that coordination, and by supporting organizations’ community outreach and funding research to improve uptake of the vaccine, progress is being made to prevent cervical cancer.
- Grantees began holding open meetings, at their own initiative.
- An ongoing coalition of cancer researchers has formed, most recently meeting in February 2023.
- Over 400 applications for funding to study interventions to improve HPV vaccine completion have been received by DCCPS; more than 50 have been awarded.
According to the latest data, the two-dose completion rate increased from 28% (girls only) in 2012 to 54% for boys and girls, and the number of HPV infections among girls ages 14–19 decreased by 64%. This gives us great optimism that fewer and fewer American women will die from cervical cancer.