As Iowa kids get their back-to-school physicals, it’s a good time to get them vaccinated against the human papillomavirus.
HPV is easily-transmitted and can cause six types of cancer. While there is no treatment for HPV, Tessa Allred, program coordinator with the Iowa Cancer Consortium, says a safe vaccine series is available.
“A lot of parents are getting their kids in for wellness visits and getting them ready to go back to school so it’s a good time for them to talk to their providers about the vaccines they’ll need,” Allred says, “which includes the HPV vaccine which is recommended for adolescents age 11 and 12.”
A report from the Iowa Department of Public Health found only 42% of girls and 36% of boys have completed their HPV vaccination series. The consortium has set a goal to increase HPV vaccination rates for Iowa teens between 13 and 15-years-old to 60% by 2022.
“We’re actually producing a video right now that features a couple of cervical cancer survivors,” Allred says. “What they’re doing is sharing what their experience was like and why they wished they would have had the opportunity to get this vaccine when they were 11 or 12.” If all children were vaccinated, she says, so many cancers could be prevented. “There are a couple of other states that actually require the HPV vaccine before school,” Allred says. “Iowa does not currently require it but it’s a vaccine that is highly recommended.”
Most insurance policies cover the shots, she says, and if they’re not covered, there are several reimbursement programs. The Iowa Cancer Consortium is billed as a partnership of more than 400 health care providers, public health professionals, caregivers, researchers, cancer survivors, volunteers and other Iowans who work together to reduce the burden of cancer in our state.