MedStar Family Choice needs your help in addressing the critical public health issue of under vaccination of Maryland's adolescents and young adults against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year, posing a significant public health risk. HPV can cause several types of cancers affecting males and females, including cervical, penile, anal, and throat cancer.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 because it produces a more robust immune response during the preteen years, and to provide protection before exposure to the virus.

The vaccine has been shown to be safe and very effective in preventing HPV. However, current Maryland data shows that vaccination rates for Tdap and meningococcal are considerably higher than those for HPV (more than 40 percent higher than HPV rates). In addition, only 27.9 percent of 13-year-old girls in the Maryland Medicaid program were fully vaccinated against HPV in 2015. This gap in coverage indicates missed opportunities to vaccinate boys and girls with HPV vaccine at the same time as other routinely recommended adolescent vaccines.

According to the Maryland Healthy Kids Program Clinical and Administrative Manual, managed care organization (MCO)-contracted primary care providers are required to review the child/adolescent’s immunization status and to administer any vaccines needed to bring the immunization status up to date according to the current Maryland Department of Health Recommended Childhood/Adolescent Immunization Schedule. The Maryland Healthy Kids Preventive Health Schedule also requires assessment for and vaccination against HPV and other adolescent vaccines at the 11- and 12-year age visits.

As a physician, you can join this statewide effort and help to prevent cancer by increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccine among your patients and encouraging completion of the full vaccine series. Recent studies show that a patient who receives a strong provider recommendation is four to five times more likely to receive the HPV vaccine. Teens and young adults who didn’t start or finish the HPV vaccine series also need HPV vaccination.

To assist providers, the Maryland Department of Health has developed a toolkit comprised of materials available at no cost to providers, including a fact sheet that may be used in conversations with parents, video/radio PSAs that may be used in office waiting rooms, and hold messages that can be used on office practice phone lines. The toolkit and other resources can be found by visiting the Maryland Department of Health's HPV website.

Thank you for all that you do to improve the health of Marylanders and your participation in this important effort to prevent cancer by increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccination.

Information current as of: