Every year, more than 27,000 cancer cases are attributed to a single cause that can easily be prevented.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is known to be the culprit in many cases of cervical, vulvar and vaginal cancers in women, penile cancers in men, and scores of other cancers in both genders. In fact, according to the New York Times, the vaccine has already reduced the virus’s prevalence by two-thirds, despite being introduced just a decade ago.
Protect your preteen
Vaccination during your children’s preteen years can help ensure they won’t fall victim to HPV during their lifetime, yet less than half of children in the U.S. have gotten the recommended shots. It’s a problem that the Northern Kentucky Independent Health Department and a local group called Let’s Immunize Northern Kentucky (LINK) are working to correct.
“Who wouldn’t want to protect their child from cancer?” asked Sonya Moseley, a nurse with the health department that serves as its immunization program director.
“The Northern Kentucky Health Department and the Letâ€™s Immunize Northern Kentucky (LINK) coalition want to bring awareness, provide education and make the HPV vaccine accessible to the uninsured so our community can make informed decisions about vaccinations,” she said. “Eventually, the work will result in a decrease cancer in rates in Northern Kentucky.”
What is the vaccine?
HPV vaccine is recommended for all girls and women ages 9 to 26. TheÂ CDC recommends two doses of HPV vaccine – rather than the previously recommended three doses – to protect against cancers caused by HPV. The second dose should be given 6-12 months after the first dose. For more information on the updated recommendations, click here.
Though the complete series can cost up to $500, most insurance companies will cover the cost. The uninsured or under-insured can get vaccines for low or no cost through NKIHD’s Vaccines for Children Program, for which the department has widely earned recognition.
Still unsure about the vaccine? Here are five facts to help you learn more:
- HPV is a very common virus
According to the Centers for Disease Control, nearly 80 million people â€” about one in four â€” are currently infected in the United States.
- Two vaccines licensed by the Food and Drug Administration combat HPV
They’re made from a protein in the virus that is not infectious and will not cause cancer by itself.
- Boys should be vaccinated, too
Though HPV is most often linked to cancers in women, boys will benefit as well. The vaccine Gardasil will help protect them later in life if they come into contact with an infected partner.
- Your teen may have mild side effects, as with any vaccinations
The most common are dizziness, nausea, headaches and pain at the injection site, but even most cases are mild.
- The vaccine should be seen as an early, early prevention tool
Though HPV is sexually transmitted, getting your child vaccinated doesn’t mean he or she is ready to have sex. “If fact, it’s just the opposite,” said Moseley. “It’s important to get your child protected before you or your child have to think about this issue.”
Learn more at an upcoming educational session hosted by St. Elizabeth Healthcare. Click here for more information or to register.