Pediatrician Leads New Initiative To Improve HPV Vaccination Rates
Efforts to Increase Human Papillomavirus vaccines at 27 primary care practices
In an effort to get more patients vaccinated against the Human papillomavirus (HPV), Cook Children’s is launching a new initiative led by one of the more vocal physicians in the country on this topic.
Jason Terk, M.D., a pediatrician at Cook Children’s, has received national attention for calling HPV vaccination rates an “epic fail.” Now, he’s steering a plan to improve HPV vaccination rates for pediatricians in each of Cook Children’s 27 primary care practices.
Using the reporting capability of the electronic medical record at Cook, Dr. Terk will calculate the HPV vaccination rate of each primary care pediatrician’s and practice’s 12-14 year old patients. Then, half of those pediatricians and practices will be given an educational session showing how they can improve their vaccination rates while the other half will serve as a control group.
The goal is to get more patients between the ages of 12 and 14 vaccinated against HPV.
“We will help lay out an action plan for the practices and set a goal of increasing vaccination rates by 10 percent over six months,” Dr. Terk said.
The physicians will then be given a progress report after 3 months.
“We will compare the vaccination rates between the group who received the educational sessions and those that did not both at 3 months and 6 months to measure the effectiveness of the educational sessions and action plan,” Dr. Terk said. “If the process improves vaccination rates, we will spread the education throughout the system with the goal of providing the best care for all of our patients.”
Vaccination rates for HPV are comparatively lower than other adolescent vaccines primarily because parents don’t perceive that their teens' physicians strongly recommend it. And, physicians may not provide an unequivocally affirmative endorsement of the HPV vaccine because they erroneously believe they will meet resistance from the parents of their teen patients.
Across the country, the number of children who receive the HPV vaccine is very low compared to other vaccines they are scheduled to receive at the same time. This is despite the fact that meningitis and pertussis are much less common than HPV.
HPV is so common, in fact, that the journal JAMA Oncology reported in January that nearly half of American men may have an HPV infection known to cause cancer. This is based on a study of 1,868 men, ages 18 to 59. Among the group, only 10.7 percent were vaccinated against HPV while 45 percent reported having genital HPV.
The study shows that work still needs to be done to raise awareness about the dangers of HPV and how to prevent an infection with the highly effective HPV vaccine.
“One of the major problems with HPV is that it may be 20 or 30 years before a person develops cancer due to an infection that happens in the teen years,” Dr. Terk said. “Unfortunately, waiting until HPV is contracted is not an option. We have to make every effort to provide our patients the HPV vaccine so we can put an end to the thousands of teens who move through Cook Children’s without ever gaining this indispensable protection.”