The CDC says too few kids are getting HPV vaccines that protect them from a range of cancers, including cervical cancer and cancers of the throat and mouth. CDC officials say the slow response to the vaccine might be because pediatricians just aren't recommending it.
Dr. Stephanie Hanson is a pediatrician at Sanford Health in Fargo. She says while it's always up to the parent and child, she recommends HPV vaccines to all of her young patients. They are given to kids around 11 or 12 years old, as a series of three shots over 6 months. They protect against HPV, which is the most common sexually transmitted infection.
The vaccines were initially just recommended for girls, but now boys are encouraged to get it too. Two of the vaccines protect against cervical cancers in women. One vaccine also protects against genital warts and cancers. Both vaccines are available for females. Only Gardasil is available for males.
Dr. Stephanie Hanson says, "the HPV vaccine is something that parents think long and hard about because it's something that prevents a sexually transmitted virus." She adds, "we don't like to think about our 11 year olds being sexually active, but if we think about it as a preventative tool -- it's a pretty smart thing to do."
The vaccine should be fully covered by health insurance, so cost is not an issue. Neither is safety- the CDC says after 67 million vaccinations have been given, there is no sign of any serious side-effects.
About 79 million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV and the CDC says 14 million people become newly infected each year with the cancer-causing forms of HPV. There are 109 known different types of human papillomaviruses and two-thirds of Americans have some type.