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The Postpartum Period: An Opportunity for Catch-Up HPV Vaccination

Op-Med is a collection of original articles contributed by Doximity members.

Dr. Amanda Williams is a 2020–2021 Doximity Research Review Fellow. Nothing in this article is intended nor implied to constitute professional medical advice or endorsement. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views/position of Doximity. 

A recent study evaluated an inpatient postpartum HPV vaccination program. While not nearly as widespread as other vaccinations already routinely incorporated into obstetric care, efforts to vaccinate against HPV in the postpartum period are becoming more common. The inpatient postpartum stay provides an opportunity for catch-up immunization, which is recommended for all adults through the age of 26, as well as adults aged 27–45 via shared clinical decision-making. Although not recommended during pregnancy, the HPV vaccine is safe during breastfeeding. Because the 9-valent vaccine prevents infection from high-risk HPV types that cause 90% of cases of cervical cancer, vaccination can have a large impact. 

In the program evaluated in the aforementioned study, 67% of eligible women got their initial dose while they were inpatients. Although only 13.6% of these patients completed the vaccine series, the authors found that women who received the inpatient dose were more likely to complete the series than women who did not. The results are promising for the future of routine incorporation of HPV vaccination into postpartum care. We can be hopeful that as obstetricians incorporate catch-up vaccination as routine practice, there will be fewer missed opportunities with respect to HPV vaccination. Further, as patients come to expect immunization as part of their routine postpartum care, we may subsequently see HPV vaccine uptake increase to levels more consistent with other immunizations associated with obstetric care.

Dr. Williams completed her undergraduate training at the University of Notre Dame in 2013 after majoring in physics. She then went on to medical school in Chicago and is now in her final year of ob/gyn residency in Houston, Texas.

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