Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration
Transforming Health Care Through Evidence and Collaboration

Missed Opportunities to Prevent Cervical Cancer: Strategies to Increase HPV Vaccination

Current State of HPV Vaccination

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccination rates for human papillomavirus (HPV) did not increase at all among adolescent girls from 2011 to 2012. Just one-third of girls aged 13-17 have been fully vaccinated against HPV despite the fact that the vaccine is included in adolescent vaccination recommendations and the fact that CDC safety monitoring data continue to indicate the vaccine is safe. In addition, research has shown that HPV vaccines currently available in the U.S. are nearly 100 percent effective in protecting against the viruses that cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. For each year that vaccination coverage levels fail to improve, an additional 4,400 women will develop cervical cancer.1

Following the release of the 2012 National Immunization Survey-Teen, CDC officials urged health care providers to increase the consistency and strength of their HPV recommendations. Research consistently shows that a provider’s recommendation is the single most persuasive factor for parents in deciding whether or not to vaccinate their child.2

Health plans are uniquely positioned to support providers in improving HPV vaccination rates. This fact sheet briefly reviews barriers to vaccination, the health and cost impact of HPV, and opportunities for health plans to support providers and educate members to increase HPV vaccination rates in the years ahead.

Why Aren't More Children Being Vaccinated?

Parents report:3

  • 19% “vaccine is not needed”
  • 14% “doctor did not recommend the vaccine”
  • 13% “concerns about the safety of the vaccine”
  • 13% “didn’t know about the vaccine or the disease”
  • 10% “daughter is not sexually active and therefore does not need the vaccine”

Providers report:4,5

  • Hesitance to discuss the vaccine if parents express mixed or negative opinions about the vaccine
  • More likely to strongly recommend the vaccine to older adolescents than to 11- and 12-year-old patients
  • Financial barriers related to the vaccine’s cost and reimbursement issues

Opportunities for Health Plans to Improve Vaccination Rates

Health plans can play a significant role in improving HPV vaccination rates by supporting in-network providers, educating their members and promoting the vaccine more broadly in their communities.

Health plans can support and reinforce providers’ efforts by:6,7

  • Increasing the consistency and strength of HPV vaccine recommendations
  • Recommending that HPV vaccine be offered at every health care encounter
  • Developing incentives based on HPV vaccination measures
  • Encouraging the reporting of HPV vaccinations to state or local immunization registries
  • Urging that reminder notices be sent to parents of patients who are due to receive the HPV vaccine

Provider Education Materials

Health plans can educate their members and their local communities about the importance of adolescent HPV immunization by disseminating educational materials via:8,9

  • Newsletters designed specifically for both adolescents and parents
  • Attendance at health fairs and community events
  • Fact sheets
  • Social media like Twitter, YouTube or Facebook
  • Segments on local television or radio stations
  • Email and letters to parents of members eligible for the HPV vaccine
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