Mississippi Can Reduce HPV-Associated Cancers with Mandatory Adolescent Immunizations

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Human Papillomavirus (HPV) can be deadly. It is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, causing over 17,000 cancers in women and 9,000 cancers in men each year. HPV can cause vulvar, vaginal and cervical cancer in females, and penile cancer in males. In both genders, it can cause oropharyngeal and anal cancer.

Vaccination against HPV has been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing these cancers, as well as genital warts. Further, popular claims that HPV vaccination leads to increased promiscuity among adolescents hahpv2ve been refuted. Both the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommend routine vaccination of males and females at 11-12 years of age, before the first sexual contact. Despite evidence-based research and support from reputable organizations, only three states have required the vaccine for school enrollment.

Mississippi has among the highest rates of HPV-associated cancers in the United States, and among the lowest rates of HPV vaccination (See figure). Current policy in Mississippi requires DTaP, Polio, Hepatitis B, MMR, and Varicella vaccinations for all children entering school in the state, and Tdap for children before entry into seventh grade. No religious or philosophical exemptions are made for mandatory vaccinations in Mississippi, but medical exemptions are allowed. There is currently no legal requirement for HPV vaccination in this state.

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Mississippi’s high rates of coverage for the above-mentioned required vaccinations, and low rates of these diseases, indicate that health authorities have successfully implemented policies that are protecting adolescents. Mechanisms and norms are already in place for parents, schools, and health facilities to vaccinate children before and during grade school. Mississippi should promote and protect the health of young people by adding the HPV vaccination to the list of already-required vaccines for school immunization requirements.

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4 Responses to “Mississippi Can Reduce HPV-Associated Cancers with Mandatory Adolescent Immunizations”

  1. edl22 Says:

    Thank you for the post! I think this is a very important topic. I support your policy mandating the HPV vaccine. However, I have heard critics use the economic argument. The vaccine costs almost $400 for all three shots. This would be an expensive mandate, especially for families without private health insurance. If it were added to the Vaccines for Children Program, the government would be putting a large amount of resources to the issue. I would argue that the cost of vaccinating children is less than the cost of treating cervical cancer later in life. Does anyone else have any thoughts on challenging these arguments?

    http://www.bu.edu/themovement/files/2012/06/HPV-Controversy-Tanya-Donahou.pdf

  2. ranjani18 Says:

    Thank you for your post. I agree that the vaccine uptake rates must be improved to reduce this highly preventable cancer (and oropharyngeal cancers in males). Certainly more education regarding the risks of HPV in both males and females may be needed in addition to increased active surveillance of the cancers in Mississippi and the US as a whole.

    Do you think the way that HPV was marketed – as a sexually transmitted infection – has hindered its uptake due to the associated stigma as it is given to children at a relatively early age? In stark contrast, Hepatitis B is also given at a very young age, but it does not have the same ‘stigma’ associated with it. However, it is highly transmissible through sexual activity (http://www.cdc.gov/hepatitis/hbv/bfaq.htm#bFAQ12), is much more readily transmitted than Hepatitits C, and HIV viruses, and is most commonly spread through sex in the United States. Improved education and understanding of the transmission mechanisms of other vaccine-preventable diseases may help to improve uptake of HPV into more populations.

  3. shadi19 Says:

    This is an important issue and I support your policy mandating HPV vaccination. It goes without saying that it is important that both male and females be vaccinated and any Mandate should be very clear about inclusion of both sexes. For Example Rhode Island (http://www.health.ri.gov/diseases/hpv/) require both males and females to get vaccinated.

    Also you may know that CDC has issued a guide for requirements for State Vaccination that you can find here (http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/imz-managers/laws/state-reqs.html)

  4. inimfonjackson Says:

    Thank you for advocating on an issue I support. HPV vaccination is the approved public health intervention for use in reducing the risk of HPV associated cancers that occur at sites other than the cervix. When used in combination with cervical screening, it provides strong protection against cervical cancer. It is of utmost importance that as many people as possible especially children get vaccinated. This will not only protect the vaccinated individuals but can reduce the prevalence of vaccine targeted HPV types in the population when a significant number of people are immunized and also provide some protection for those who are not vaccinated (herd immunity).
    I read that in Australia, vaccination of young girls led to a reduction in the incidence of genital warts among young males who were not receiving vaccines at the time as well as among young females. This shows that the vaccination will not only prevent cancer that seems distant in the minds of most people but will also lead to significant reductions in other HPV- associated sexually transmitted diseases. It is therefore important that Mississippi and all other states yet to enforce mandatory adolescent immunizations, add HPV vaccination to the list of required vaccines for school immunization requirements so as to protect the health of young people in the population.

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