As director of the CDC, one of the best parts of my job is announcing good news. Today, CDC released some really good news -- the prevalence of types of human papillomavirus (HPV) that commonly cause cervical cancer in women has dropped about half in girls aged 14-19 since 2006, when the vaccination program started.
Results of the study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, are striking and should be a wake-up call to our nation to make sure adolescent and teenage girls are vaccinated against HPV.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. and can cause serious health problems, including cancer, in both women and men.
About 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV and about 14 million Americans become newly infected each year. Only one third of 13- to 17-year old girls in the United States have received the HPV vaccine as recommended. In fact, countries such as Rwanda have vaccinated a higher percentage of females than we have in the U.S.
Our low vaccination rates represent 50,000 preventable tragedies -- 50,000 girls alive today who will develop cervical cancer that would have been prevented if we had reached 80 percent vaccination rates. For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 women will develop cervical cancer.
Vaccination is easy. Many insurers are now required to cover certain preventive services at no cost to patients including the HPV vaccine for both young females and males.
It's time for healthcare providers, health departments and parents to move swiftly and act now protect the next generation of women against cervical cancer by increasing HPV vaccination rates.