Opinion: HPV vaccine is vote against kids’ cancers

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year nearly 39,000 people in the US will develop cancer associated with the human papilloma virus (HPV). The HPV vaccine can prevent the vast majority of those cancers, but only if the vaccine is used.

If you want to prevent your child from developing most HPV associated cancers, there is a safe and effective vaccine for this. Pediatricians recommend children get this vaccination at ages 11 to 12, for two reasons. First, because the vaccination should be administered long before any exposure to HPV. Second, because the antibody responses to the HPV vaccine are highest in children ages nine to 15.

Both girls and boys should receive this vaccine because both can contract HPV and develop the cancers HPV cause. Since nearly all Americans will catch at least one type of HPV during their lifetime, your child should definitely be vaccinated before becoming sexually active.

If you are a parent worried about this vaccine, you can relax. It’s one of the safest of childhood vaccines. The World Health Organization has monitored the safety record of over 200 million doses of the HPV vaccine and continues to strongly recommend its use. It’s just an incredibly great way to prevent a bunch of horrible cancers from killing or maiming your kids when they get older.

Your child can be vaccinated at their doctor’s office or at most pharmacies. Because the HPV vaccine is paid for by medical insurance, it’s an affordable way for parents to protect their children. Additionally, the Vaccines for Children program (VFC) provide vaccines free to uninsured children ages 18 and younger.

Isn’t this vaccination required already for all of Georgia’s students? Just like the vaccines for mumps, measles, and chickenpox? Well, actually no, even though there’s nothing medically controversial about this vaccine at all. In fact, the HPV vaccine has been endorsed by the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC, and by virtually every top-flight medical journal.

Yet according to a 2016 CDC publication, Georgia ranked 42nd out of the 50 states in the rate of female adolescents who had completed their HPV vaccination series. The rate of Georgia’s teens for completing their HPV vaccination was estimated to be as low as 23.9 percent for girls and 19.9 percent for boys. Georgia is also among the 15 states in the U.S. with the highest incidence of HPV-related cancers for men and women combined. Why does Georgia, home to the CDC, have such a poor public health record for HPV vaccinations?

There is evidence that politics plays a role in this area of medicine. According to a study by the University of North Carolina’s (UNC) School of Medicine and the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, political conservatives were more likely believe that the HPV vaccine encourages sexual activity in girls.

Nothing could be further from the truth. According to The Journal of the American Medical Association, The Canadian Medical Association Journal and other peer-reviewed medical journals, there is strong evidence that the HPV vaccination does not increase sexual activity among adolescents.

Even if your children abstain from sex until marriage, their future spouses may not. Because there’s no commercially available HPV test for boys and men, they can’t know whether they have ever been infected with HPV.

So how can we protect our children from developing these preventable cancers?

First, ask your child’s doctor about the HPV vaccine. Doctors are best qualified to answer questions about your child’s health. The HPV vaccine will provide your child with lifelong protection against many types of cancers. Even if Georgia law doesn’t require it for schoolchildren you can still protect your children by getting them vaccinated.

Second, ask your state representative and state senator if they support mandatory HPV vaccinations for Georgia schoolchildren. If they don’t, please vote for someone who does and demand that they pass a law requiring that all Georgia schoolchildren, ages 11 and up, receive the HPV vaccine, unless they have a valid medical exemption.

Third, some courts in Georgia have prevented children from receiving the HPV vaccine, even when their parents wished them to receive this vital protection against cancer. When you are deciding which local judges to vote for, ask them what their views are about the HPV vaccine.

Parents, for your kids’ health, vote to require HPV vaccinations for all public schoolchildren.

If you want more information about this, email me at stop.hpv.now@gmail.com.

Seth Ansell is a research color scientist in California. His daughter lives in Cartersville.