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Siteman Cancer Center and Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital join national call to prevent cancer with HPV vaccination


Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine has joined with other leading cancer centers from across the U.S. to issue a statement urging the nation’s physicians, parents and young adults to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination back on track. The statement encourages parents to get their adolescent children vaccinated against HPV, which prevents the development of certain cancers later in adulthood, and for young adults who haven’t received the vaccine, to do so. Siteman’s pediatric cancer partners at Siteman Kids at St. Louis Children’s Hospital also join in support.

Dramatic drops in annual well visits and immunizations during the COVID-19 pandemic have caused a significant vaccination gap and lag in vital preventive services among U.S. children and adolescents — especially for the HPV vaccine.

“No parent or guardian would want to see his or her child develop a cancer that could have been prevented had the child been vaccinated,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, director of Siteman Cancer Center and head of the Department of Surgery at the School of Medicine. “By vaccinating adolescents against HPV, we can help ensure a healthier future ahead.”

Siteman, a National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated cancer center, stands with the 70 other NCI-designated cancer centers, as well as with 14 fellow members of the Association of American Cancer Institutes (AACI) and other organizations in supporting the call to action during National Immunization Awareness Month.

The organizations urge the following actions as children head back to school:

  • Health care systems’ staff and providers should identify and contact parents of adolescents who are due for vaccinations and encourage them to complete vaccinations.
  • Parents should have their adolescent children vaccinated as soon as possible. A list of recommended vaccines is available on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

Nearly 80 million Americans – 1 out of every 4 people – are infected with HPV, a virus that causes several types of cancers. Of those millions, more than 36,000 will be diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer this year. Despite those staggering figures and the availability of a vaccine to prevent HPV infections, HPV vaccination rates remain significantly lower in the U.S. than other recommended adolescent vaccines. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, HPV vaccination rates lagged far behind other vaccines and other countries’ HPV vaccination rates. According to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), only about half (54%) of adolescents were up to date on the HPV vaccine.

Those numbers have declined precipitously since the pandemic.

The U.S. has recommended routine HPV vaccination for females since 2006, and for males since 2011. Current recommendations are for routine vaccination at ages 11 or 12. Catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended through age 26.

More information on HPV is available from the CDC and National HPV Vaccination Roundtable.

Updated August 31, 2021