Immunize Nevada Launches HPV Free NV Campaign

Immunize Nevada, in partnership with the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health and Nevada Cancer Coalition, has launched HPV Free NV, a statewide campaign to raise awareness and uptake of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine known to prevent cancer.

“We vaccinate so that children have the best protection possible long before they are exposed to an infection, as is the case with measles and the other recommended childhood vaccines,” said Heidi Parker, executive director of Immunize Nevada.  “I ask parents, ‘If there were a vaccine to prevent cancer, would you get it for your children? Of course you would.’  The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention.” 

According to the CDC, Nevada falls below the national average with only 27.4 percent of girls and 7.3 percent for boys receiving all three doses of the HPV vaccine.  With a grant from the CDC, Nevada is one of several states to receive funding to support a public awareness campaign targeted at parents and adolescents between 11 and 12 years of age and health care providers. 

The HPV vaccine is best given between 11-12 years of age when the body will produce the best immune response and develop protection before coming in contact with the virus. The CDC recommends that all 11-12 year olds should receive the entire HPV vaccination series to prevent cancer. For those who were not previously vaccinated or did not complete the entire HPV vaccine series, catch up vaccinations are recommended for males and females between 13 and 26 years of age.

In the U.S., 33,000 HPV-associated cancers are diagnosed each year, about 20,600 among females and 12,600 among males.  Cervical cancer is the most common HPV-associated cancer among females and oropharyngeal cancers are the most common among males. Together, cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancers cause 70% of all the HPV-associated cancer.  In addition, HPV can cause cancers of the cervix, vagina and vulva in women, cancer of the penis in men, and cancers of the anus and the mouth or throat in both women and men.  Of the 33,000 HPV-associated cancers diagnosed each year 26,000 could be prevented by the HPV vaccine.

"One of the worst things you can ever hear is that you have cancer,” said Abbi Whitaker, an HPV-associated cancer survivor and local businesswoman.  “I was just 35 years-old when I found out.  My son was four years old and my daughter was only 18 months old.  I felt like the bottom had fallen out of my entire world and I was so fearful I would never see my kids grow up, get married and have babies of their own.  The cancer that made me fearful for my own life can be prevented and I will make sure that my son and daughter don't have to go through my same burden."

Evidence supports a strong recommendation from a health care provider as the best indicator for HPV vaccine acceptance among parents and caregivers.  Providers may underestimate the value that parents place on HPV vaccine and not routinely recommend the HPV vaccine creating missed opportunities. A missed opportunity is a health care encounter where a person does not receive a vaccination for which he or she is eligible.

In 2013, 81 percent of unvaccinated girls in Nevada did not receive the HPV vaccine during a health care visit when they were eligible. If these missed opportunities were eliminated 91 percent of Nevada girls could have started the HPV vaccine series in 2013. Statistics show that an estimated 105,920 Nevada teens aged 13 to 17 had not received any doses of the HPV vaccine in 2013. These unvaccinated teens are left unprotected against HPV and are vulnerable to HPV-associated cancers.

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