Physicians must talk to parents, send reminders to increase HPV vaccination

A series of three vaccinations could protect young people against the risk of developing cancer, yet, many don't get the HPV vaccine, according to a report by Stateline.

While it's been 10 years since approval of the HPV vaccine to combat the cancer-causing human papillomavirus or HPV, less than half of girls and only a fifth of boys get immunized, the report said.

"We clamor and clamor for a vaccine to get rid of these terrible diseases and yet we aren't implementing them," Amy Pisani, executive director of Every Child by Two, a non-profit organization that aims to reduce vaccine-preventable illnesses, told the publication. She said rates of HPV vaccination, which usually occurs around the age of 11 and 12, are "dismally low and very alarming."

Public health officials say there are a number of reasons why children don't get the HPV vaccine, including physicians' and parents' reluctance to talk about sex. HPV viruses are the most common sexually transmitted infections in the U.S. and in 10 percent of cases lead to cancer, especially cervical cancer. Nearly all sexually active people will contract at least one of more than 40 types of HPV over the course of their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Yet the vaccine can prevent future generations from contracting the virus or transmitting it to others.

Physicians and nurse practitioners are urged to discuss the HPV vaccine with parents and convey its importance. While some doctors might believe parents aren't interested in the vaccine for their children, that's not the case and a recommendation from a physician increases the chance young people will get the full three immunizations, Noel Brewer, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, told the publication. Advocates also urge physicians to send out reminders when children are due for their vaccinations.

Despite the public debate surrounding childhood vaccination in the U.S. rates for those early vaccinations against a variety of other diseases remain generally high.

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