Exploring low vaccination rate for cancer-causing HPV

Cancer center joins with Harvard Law School to create guidebook to address vaccine hesitancy


The COVID-19 pandemic has complicated efforts to increase the rate of vaccinations. That includes those to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is linked to six types of cancer, including head and neck cancers.

Cover of HPV Vaccine Policy Landscape, Public Health Strategies report

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. As states consider ways to increase vaccinations, UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center has joined the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation of Harvard Law School to put out a new resource called the HPV Vaccine Policy Landscape, Public Health Strategies.

The new guidebook highlights the roles that state policy makers, educational institutions, and health care providers can play in increasing HPV vaccination rates by navigating the policy landscape more effectively

The cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement reports that Northern California has some of the highest rates of HPV-related cancers in the state. HPV has long been associated with cervical cancer and chances of being diagnosed with cervical cancer could be reduced by 90% by getting the HPV vaccine. In fact, the shot could prevent about 33,000 cancer cases every year in this country—if only the majority of those eligible to receive the vaccine, got the vaccine.

“While HPV vaccination rates have increased after a dramatic drop during the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still major catching up that needs to happen in order to save lives,” said Julie Dang, executive director of the cancer center’s Office of Community Outreach and Engagement. “Our hope is that this report will provide targeted policy solutions to navigate the landscape that COVID-19 has forever changed so that we can see a significant uptake in HPV vaccination rates.”

The American Cancer Society recommends young people get the HPV vaccine between the ages of 9 to 12, before they become sexually active. Teens and young adults, ages 13 through 26 who have not been vaccinated, should also get the vaccine as soon as possible.

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 100,000 adults and children every year and access to more than 200 active clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 240 scientists at UC Davis who work collaboratively to advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Patients have access to leading-edge care, including immunotherapy and other targeted treatments. Its Office of Community Outreach and Engagement addresses disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations, and the cancer center provides comprehensive education and workforce development programs for the next generation of clinicians and scientists. For more information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.