Could Pandemic Response Ramp Up HPV Vaccinations?
As immunization efforts unfold, if it is demonstrated that dentists can safely administer COVID vaccines as part of a broad national effort to arrest the pandemic, it stands to reason the profession could help meet other national vaccination goals.
To meet the goal of 80% of all U.S. residents age 16 and older receiving both doses of COVID-19 vaccine by late June, each day over the next six months more than 3 million people will need to be vaccinated.1 Vaccine supply is but one issue in such a massive effort. States are also looking to expand the list of clinicians who are approved to administer the vaccine to include a broader range of trained healthcare providers, including dentists. A growing number of states already allow this, and more are considering including oral health professionals as qualified COVID vaccine providers.
As immunization efforts unfold, if it is demonstrated that dentists can safely administer COVID vaccines as part of a broad national effort to arrest the pandemic, it stands to reason the profession could help meet other national vaccination goals. This includes the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination target, which is below goal.2
As the leading cause of oral and oropharyngeal cancer,3 HPV is especially relevant to oral health professionals. This is borne out by a 2019 American Dental Association policy update that recommends dentists conduct routine visual and tactile examinations for oral and oropharyngeal cancer for all patients.4
Due to new understanding of the role of HPV in cancer, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends HPV vaccination for males and females through age 26, and also for high-risk individuals through age 45.5 As dental offices already provide screening and education for oral and oropharyngeal cancer, adding the ability to immunize for HPV could be another strategy to reach national vaccination goals.
- Murphy J, Siemaszko C. Operation Warp Speed at a crawl: Adequately vaccinating Americans will take 10 years at current pace. Available at: http/://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/current-rate-it-ll-be-10-years-americans-adequately-vaccinated-n1252486. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- Healthy People 2020 Immunization and Infectious Diseases Objectives. Available at: https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/immunization-and-infectious-diseases/objectives. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV-Associated Oropharyngeal Cancer Rates by Race and Ethnicity. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/hpv/statistics/headneck.htm. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- Versaci MB. ADA expands policy on oral cancer detection to include oropharyngeal cancer. Available at: https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2019-archive/september/ada-expands-policy-on-oral-cancer-detection-to-include-oropharyngeal-cancer. Accessed January 21, 2021.
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV Vaccine Recommendations. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/hpv/hcp/recommendations.html. Accessed January 21, 2021.
From Decisions in Dentistry. February 2021;7(2):46.