Feds fund Ky. campaign to promote shots for human papilloma virus, the most common sexually transmitted disease

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen joined public health officials in Frankfort July 13 to launch Kentucky’s new “Stop HPV Campaign,” to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, which is known to cause cervical, oral and anal cancer.

“Experts tell us that this vaccine, which is safe and highly effective against the most common cancer-causing strains of the virus, should be a routine part of adolescent health,” Luallen said. State laws and regulations to not require the immunization, which is recommended for 11-and 12-year-old boys and girls, but Luallen said, “It is the smart thing to do. It is cancer prevention.”

The campaign will feature television, print and online advertisements throughout the state that will promote the benefits of the HPV vaccine. It is funded by a $500,000 grant from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An estimated 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and about 14 million people become newly infected each year, according to the CDC. It is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S.

“According to the 2010 census data, there are about 26 million girls under the age of 13 in the U.S.,” Luallen said. “If none of them receive the HPV vaccine, over 168,000 will develop cervical cancer and more than 54,000 of them will die.”

Luallen is chair of the Kyhealthnow initiative, which includes as part of its strategy to reduce cancer deaths by 10 percent and increase rates of HPV vaccination by 25 percent.

Health Commissioner Stephanie Mayfield said that she hopes the campaign will contribute to the eradication of the cancer causing HPV virus, as the polio and smallpox vaccines have done.

Mayfield not only called on health-care providers to talk to their patients about the health benefits of this vaccine, she said parents should ask their providers about it if they don’t bring it up.

“By getting your child vaccinated with the HPV vaccine, you are preventing the spread of a virus and protecting your child from developing one of the HPV-related cancers,” she said.

Kentucky has a high vaccination rate for school-required vaccinations, but only 27 percent of Kentucky’s girls complete the full three dose HPV series and only 19 percent of its boys complete the series. The national average is 38 percent.

“The health of our citizens suffers from this type of inaction,” Mayfield said. “We want all kids who are 11 or 12 years old to get the three dose series of HPV vaccine.”

Insurance will cover the cost of the HPV vaccine and the Vaccine for Children Program will cover the vaccine at no cost for children who don’t have insurance and are younger than 19. Call 800-232-4636 for more details.

Mayfield noted that there has been a 56 percent reduction in HPV infections in teen girls in the U.S. since 2006 because of this vaccine, and called on Kentuckians to get their children vaccinated.

“Each year about 17,500 women and 9,300 men are infected by HPV related cancers,” Mayfield said. “Let’s stop this and eradicate these infections.”

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