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It’s that time of year again! Summer is ending and children are returning to school.
Just as you prepare your child for the upcoming school year with school supplies, consider preparing them for a healthier life free from Human Papillomavirus (HPV)-related cancers with an HPV vaccine.
Now is the perfect time to schedule your child’s annual wellness visit to receive the vaccine – before life gets hectic again.
What is HPV?
HPV is short for human papillomavirus. There are many types of HPVs, some of which can be sexually transmitted and cause cancer later in life, according to the American Cancer Society.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US.
HPV is so common that almost every sexually active person will get HPV at some point in their lives if they don’t get vaccinated, according to the CDC.
Cancers caused by HPV include cervical, anal, oropharyngeal and other genital cancers. This is important for Latinas, who are 40% more likely to be diagnosed with cervical cancer than white women.
How is HPV Spread?
HPV is spread by skin-to-skin contact, such as through sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, and oral sex.
There is no test to find out a person’s “HPV status.”
Most people do not know they have the infection. HPV can be spread even when an infected person has no visible signs or symptoms. Using condoms correctly can lower the chance of contracting HPV, but HPV can still infect areas where the condom does not cover, according to the CDC.
Why Get the HPV Vaccine?
Due to the nature of the virus and how it spreads, getting vaccinated is the best way to prevent HPV infections and HPV-related cancers.
As a parent, you should think of HPV vaccination as cancer prevention for your child.
For example, Christine Baze did not receive the HPV vaccine and was diagnosed at age 31 with cervical cancer.
“It changed my life forever,” Christine said in a National HPV Vaccination Roundtable video. “I want parents to know that they have an incredible opportunity to protect their children against HPV cancers.”
While it may be uncomfortable to think about your child becoming sexually active one day, it is best to vaccinate them against HPV because there is no guarantee that his/her future sexual partner will be vaccinated against the virus.
“HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90% of HPV cancers. It is safe, effective and provides long-lasting protection,” stated the American Cancer Society.
“Not obtaining the vaccine for children is a missed opportunity to protect them against the pain and suffering from cancer in the future,” said Dr. Amelie G. Ramirez, a Latina cancer researcher and leader of Salud America! at the Institute for Health Promotion Research at UT Health San Antonio.
Latino parents should especially consider the vaccine.
“Cervical cancer rates are especially high among the largely Latino population of South Texas, yet most of these cases could be prevented with the HPV vaccine, which has been proven safe and effective,” Dr. Ramirez said.
HPV vaccination is recommended at age 11 or 12 but can be started as early as age 9, according to CDC guidelines.
For parents of older children – everyone through age 26 can receive the vaccine, if not adequately vaccinated when younger.
HPV vaccination is given as a series of either two or three doses, depending on age at initial vaccination.
Keep in mind that HPV vaccination prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing HPV infections or diseases. HPV vaccine works best when given before any exposure to HPV, according to CDC guidelines.
Where Do I Get the Vaccine and How Do I Pay for It?
You can get the HPV vaccine through your child’s doctor.
Insurance plans will probably cover the cost of the HPV vaccine if given in accordance with national guidelines, according to the American Cancer Society.
The HPV vaccine is also available to all uninsured or underinsured boys and girls between ages 9 and 18 through the Texas Vaccines for Children (TVFC) program.
You can also contact community health clinics, school-based health centers, and state health departments to get vaccinated.
Choose a healthier future for your child and protect them against HPV-related cancers today.
You Can Speak Up for Vaccine Safety
Latinos suffer a heavy burden of disease, like HPV.
Yet Latinos often have low rates of getting vaccines that can prevent many diseases, due to rising misinformation, low healthcare access and other inequities, and historical bias in healthcare.
To help move Latinos from vaccine uncertainty to vaccine confidence, Salud America! is uplifting the stories of real Latinos who overcame misinformation, got the COVID-19 vaccine, reconnected with family, and are helping end the pandemic and variants like Delta and Omicron.
For example, Rosa Herrera read misinformation on Facebook that the COVID-19 vaccine would inject her with a microchip.
What changed her heart to get the vaccine?
After researching and learning that the vaccine is safe, she got vaccinated, and she’s glad she did.
“I’m able to see my grandkids and my kids here. It gives you more freedom,” Herrera said.