Some parents don’t like to hear about it. Some doctors don’t like to talk about it. As a result, the Florida Department of Health in Broward County will start a special initiative to increase it.
“It” is the vaccine for human papillomavirus (HPV), which federal experts recommend for girls and boys starting at age 11-12 to prevent cancers caused by the sexually transmitted infection.
Unlike other vaccines, HPV is not required for school enrollment in Florida and is not offered by some physicians. Vaccination rates are low nationally, especially in Broward and Florida.
Hoping to boost the rates, DOH-Broward won a special $40,000 grant over two years from the National Association of County and City Health Officials. The grants were given to only nine organizations nationwide from states that have low HPV vaccination rates.
DOH-Broward and its community partners in the Immunization Action Coalition are planning a campaign to start in summer that aims to increase the number of adolescents vaccinated against HPV.
“We think the major issue is education,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward. “Parents may be hesitant about the vaccine. We need to communicate that the vaccine can prevent cancers.”
In addition, there’s a logistical hurdle to solve. The vaccine is given in three doses over six months, but many families who come for the first dose never return for the second or third dose, Thaqi says.
Actions that are expected to be part of the campaign will be to inform medical providers about the vaccine, educate families and create a system to remind families about the follow-up doses.
In 2013, an estimated 50 percent of Florida girls got a first dose of HPV vaccine (seventh lowest among states) and 28 percent of boys (17th lowest), says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 34 percent of Florida girls and 13 percent of boys had all three doses. The rates in South Florida are thought to be similar.
Parents can help DOH-Broward with the campaign, by taking a Parent Survey on Human Papillomavirus. The nine-question survey is anonymous and will take only a few minutes to complete. The answers from parents will help direct what educational actions are made during the HPV campaign. Thank you for participating.