HPV vaccine

As most Florida students return to school on Monday, doctors are urging their parents to consider vaccinations beyond those required by the state, like the one for the human papilloma virus.

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.

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HPV vaccination rates are some of the lowest throughout the country including in Orange County.

Each year, about 31,000 men and women in the U.S. are diagnosed with a cancer caused by an infection from the human papillomavirus, or HPV. It's the most common sexually transmitted virus and infection in the U.S.

In women, HPV infection can lead to cervical cancer, which leads to about 4,000 deaths per year. In men, it can cause penile cancer. HPV also causes some cases of oral cancer, cancer of the anus and genital warts.

You'd think that a vaccine that protects people against more than a half dozen types of cancer would have patients lining up to get it. But the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which can prevent roughly 90 percent of all cervical cancers as well as other cancers and sexually transmitted infections caused by the virus, has faced an uphill climb since its introduction more than a decade ago.

When it comes to getting the HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer, teens below the poverty line are doing better than the rest.

Among teenage girls ages 13 to 17 whose total family income was less than the federal poverty level for their family size, 67.2 percent have received the first dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine, compared to 57.7 percent for those at or above the poverty line. For teen boys, it's 51.6 percent compared to 39.5 percent.

Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation

 

Kristen Forbes died in 2008, just a year after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer caused by a virus.

Her story is one of five being shared by filmmakers Tuesday during a screening of “Someone you Love: The HPV Epidemic” at the Moffitt Cancer Center.

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Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections. It can also cause cancer.

Mary Shedden/WUSF

Florida lags behind the rest of the country in vaccinating children for the human papillomavirus. 

Part of the problem started eight years ago, when the HPV vaccine was introduced as a way to prevent a sexually transmitted infection that researchers knew was a major cause of cervical cancer and other disease.

But the shots are recommended for 11- and 12-year-old children. And talking about a vaccine tied to sexual activity made some parents and pediatricians squirm.

UPDATED 7/8 with University Beat audio report and additional quotes.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, over half of American girls ages 13 to 17 have received at least one dose of the vaccination to protect against the human papillomavirus (HPV) - and it's a rate that decreases over the needed second and third doses.