Statewide immunization rates for HPV lagging

Raul Rudoy, a University of Hawaiʻi pediatric infectious disease specialist, is among health officials concerned that vaccination rates in Hawaiʻi to prevent the potentially deadly Human Papillomavirus (HPV) are still relatively low. Only 34 percent of females and 15 percent of males in Hawaiʻi have been fully immunized, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control.

“We’re not talking about a cold. This is cancer. And it can be prevented,” said Rudoy.

HPV is the most common cancer-causing virus in the world. Most will acquire it at some stage in their lives. For most, it will be harmless; but for some, it will cause cancer. All 11- or 12-year-olds should get the vaccine.

HPV vaccines are given to both boys and girls when they are 11 or 12 years old. Three shots are needed over a six-month period for full protection.

“The reason for giving the vaccine at that early age is that it needs to be provided before the children have a risk of getting the disease,” said Rudoy. HPV is the most frequent sexually transmitted infectious disease in the United States—80 percent of sexually active women will contract HPV at some point in their lifetimes. Every year, over 25,000 cancers induced by HPV occur in the U.S. Most are cervical cancer in females and throat cancer in males.

“A recent study found that sexually active female college students had a baseline HPV infection rate of 26 percent and that rate went to 60 percent when rechecked three years later,” explained Rudoy. “The HPV vaccine would have prevented transmission in most of them.”

Reasons for the low immunization rate are not clear, according to Rudoy. “The risks of the HPV vaccine are minuscule in comparison to the enormous benefits,” he said. “This is cancer—and there is an effective vaccine that will prevent HPV infections.”

Annual Pediatric Infectious Disease Conference

Current recommendations and strategies to improve vaccine coverage and the need to increase public awareness of HPV vaccination among parents, caregivers and adolescents will be discussed at the Seventh Aloha Pediatric Infectious Diseases Conference on Saturday, September 12, 12:30– 5:30 p.m. at the John A. Burns School of Medicine (JABSOM) Medical Education Building, third floor.

For more information about vaccines, visit the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health website.

Source: A UH News story