Human papillomavirus infections are so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.
But fewer than 60 percent of Florida children are getting vaccinated – earning the state a “D” grade from the CDC.
While most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems, the virus causes 32,500 cases of cancer in men and women every year in the United States.
- cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;
- cancers of the penis in men; and
- cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils in both women and men.
The CDC recommends children ages 11 and 12 get vaccinated, but the vaccine series can be administered as early as 9 and as late as 26.
Dr. Anna Giuliano, Director of the Center for Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center, fights back against misconceptions that the vaccine is unsafe. She says it’s also highly effective.
“We have an unprecedented opportunity to eliminate - I'm talking about not just dropping the rates. I'm talking about getting to zero - getting to a point where we never see these cancers again,” Giuliano said.
Giuliano, along with Tampa's U.S. representative Kathy Castor, said it's vital that more parents comply with recommendations. They're pushing the vaccine as the school year gets underway.
"What that [the D rating] means is that children from the state of Florida one day in the future will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and other cancers that could have been prevented if their parents and their doctors, their health clinics nearby, had impressed upon them the importance of getting the HPV vaccine,” Castor said.
Florida doesn't have a plan to make the HPV vaccine mandatory for the state's children.