By Elizabeth Holtsclaw
Even though the calendar says it’s the middle of summer, parents of school-aged children know it’s already back-to-school season. For clinicians, that means parents are scheduling kids for annual check-ups and sports physicals.
Which is the perfect opportunity for cancer prevention.
That’s why the American Cancer Society, working with healthcare and community leaders, recently began a series of HPV roundtables across the state to discuss ways to close the HPV immunization gap in Kentucky. One consistent outcome from the roundtables is the importance of clinician recommendation to parents that their children receive the HPV vaccine.
Health and Human Services Director Dr. Tammy Beckham, of the Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy, spoke at the Louisville and Paducah roundtables and emphasized the importance of clinician recommendations. “That provider recommendation really does make a difference when parents are deciding whether to vaccinate their children,” she said.
An effective clinician recommendation–recommending the HPV vaccine in the same way and on the same day as other adolescent vaccines–is the number one reason parents choose to vaccinate their children.
Recent studies show a patient who receives a recommendation from a provider is four to five times more likely to receive the HPV vaccine. Studies have also shown that parents value the HPV vaccine equally with other adolescent vaccines.
Important for Kentucky
According to the Kentucky Cancer Registry, Kentucky has the highest HPV-related cancer burden in the nation. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) National Immunization Survey indicates that Kentucky is 49th in the nation for HPV vaccination. Only 37.7 percent of Kentucky adolescents are up to date on completing the HPV two-shot series, which is below the national average of 49 percent (66 percent of adolescents age 13-17 have received the first dose of the series).
The two-shot HPV vaccine series is best given to boys and girls at ages 11 or 12. HPV vaccination prevents an estimated 90 percent of HPV cancers when given at the recommended age, but cancer protection decreases as age of vaccination increases. Proven safe and effective, the vaccine prevents infection with the most common types of HPV that can cause cervical, throat, vulvar, vaginal, penile and anal cancer.
Providers with questions about the vaccine or who need materials to share with parents and guardians, can go to www.cancer.org/hpv.
The goal of the Kentucky HPV roundtables is to launch regional coalitions to identify ways to increase the vaccination rate by eight percent, bringing Kentucky closer to the national average. The roundtables, already held in Paducah and Louisville, continue in Somerset, Lexington, Hazard, Bowling Green and Owensboro.
-Elizabeth Holtsclaw is the American Cancer Society Kentucky Health Systems Manager for State & Primary Care Systems.