Two days of brainstorming by Broward County’s leading immunization advocates produced a big innovation – a three-year plan to increase the number of children vaccinated against HPV.
The Florida Department of Health in Broward County and its community partners led the session and will take a central role in the new push to boost human papilloma virus vaccination for kids starting at age 11-12. More than three dozen people from numerous organizations attended.
“We’re gratified to see all the community partners who helped shape the HPV plan and who will help make it a reality,” says Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward. “Our goal is to make HPV widely accepted by families in Broward as a cancer-prevention vaccine to protect their children.”
HPV spreads through sexual contact and can lead to various infections, including cervical cancer. Unlike immunizations required for school, the three-dose HPV vaccine is optional. In Florida, only half of eligible girls and one-quarter of eligible boys receive the first dose. Only one-third of girls and one-eighth of boys received all doses.
To address the problem, DOH-Broward received a $40,000 grant from the National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO). Highlights of the coming initiative:
Create a significant publicity and social media campaign to educate parents, children and health professionals about the vaccine. Celebrities will be recruited as HPV spokespersons.
Develop a “toolkit” and an informational website for physicians, so that more of them will educate families about the vaccine.
Share data on vaccination rates with doctors, who may overestimate the vaccine’s acceptance.
In addition, efforts will be made to increase the vaccine's availability and affordability.
“If the vaccine were 100 percent free, more doctors would offer it and more children definitely would get it,” says Dr. Aaron Elkin, who heads an HPV committee at the Broward County Medical Association.
More information: CDC at www.cdc.gov/hpv/vaccine.html