New guidelines reducing the number of vaccine doses needed to prevent cervical and other cancers will make it easier for more teens and adolescents to complete the immunization series.
And that ultimately will save lives, said Dr. Crystal Cole, an adolescent medicine physician at Akron Children’s Hospital.
A three-dose schedule of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine has been the standard for kids starting at age 11. But in October, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that only two doses are needed for those who start the vaccinations before age 15. The second dose is given 6 to 12 months after the first.
A three-dose series is still recommended for teens 15 and older who haven’t started the vaccinations.
Dr. Cole said the revised guidelines are good news that should spur better compliance.
Vaccination rates have steadily improved since the vaccine, Gardasil, came on the market a decade ago. But there is room for improvement.
In 2015, half of boys and 63 percent of girls ages 13-17 had received at least one dose, according to the CDC.
“The more people understand it as a cancer-prevention vaccine, the better,” Dr. Cole said. “It’s a great vaccine. It’s very safe and well tolerated. Even with modest vaccination rates, we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in HPV.”
HPV infections are sexually transmitted and cause about 90 percent of cervical cancers. The virus can also cause throat and anal cancers, and genital warts, Dr. Cole said.
The infections are responsible for more than 30,000 cancers a year in men and women in the United States, according to the CDC.
The new recommendation for a two-dose regimen came after studies showed that the immune response in younger patients who received two doses was the same or higher as the response in older teens receiving three doses.
“The new schedule should improve completion rates,” Dr. Cole said. “It will save lives. If you know anyone, if you have had a loved one, who went through cervical cancer or who died from it, you understand the impact it has on people’s lives.”