HPV Vaccination Rate Low in Northwest Florida

By: Meredith TerHaar Email
By: Meredith TerHaar Email

Panama City - Ever since the FDA approved a vaccine for the prevention of the human papillomavirus in 2006, it's been a hot button issue. The discussion got political when several state governments considered mandating the HPV vaccine, although only Virginia has done so. The issue has even entered the presidential campaign when Texas Governor Rick Perry took heat for ordering all girls vaccinated. And fellow candidate Michelle Bachman passed on the rumor she'd heard that the vaccine led to mental retardation.

So where does Florida stand on the issue? In the state of Florida the vaccine is not required, simply recommended. But the doctors NewsChannel 7 spoke with say the recommendation is being ignored by a surprisingly high number of parents.

Based on American Cancer Society estimates, about 30 women a day are diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States. According to the CDC, 80% of all women will be infected with the HPV virus by the age of 50, but experts say there is something that can be done in middle school to prevent that.

The HPV vaccine is known to prevent the virus which can lead to cervical cancer. Despite that, health officials estimate only 20 to 30% of Northwest Florida girls have been vaccinated against it. The question is why? Doctors say one reason far outweighs the others. "Parents tend to think about it in the sense that it might be giving their kids an OK to do things that they would not necessarily religiously or culturally believe in," said pediatrician Dr. Eehab Kenawy. "Very often it comes out as us condoning kids at a young age having sex, primarily when the recommendation is to vaccinate between the ages of 11 and 12. We have approval to do it as young as 9. We do it primarily because that is the age you have the most antibodies," said Dr. Thomas Hermann, a pediatrician with Baldwin Pediatrics.

So how do parents talk to their kids about it? "I would approach it strictly from a health standpoint, that you know 'Yes I understand.' I would again have told my children what my beliefs are before this conversation. But try to stress this is something that will keep you healthy," said Kerry Hunt with the Bay County Health Department.

Another reason parents shy away from the vaccine, it hasn't been on the market very long. "I'm just not sure. I don't want to put my child through a shot she doesn't necessarily need to have," said Kelly Griner.

Fear over side effects may deter some, but Dr. Kenawy points out the vaccine is not for infants or very young children. "HPV is only indicated for 9 years and older. It's not something we would see with autism, although there is no link between autism and vaccinations. But that fear that is out there in the general public does not exist with this vaccine because of the age group."

Doctors say the benefits of the HPV vaccine far outweigh what they call very small risks. "Vaccines save lives. We don't have polio for the most part, chicken pox, we stopped vaccinating for small pox because we have eradicated it. Vaccines save lives and we strongly encourage everyone to get vaccinated," said Dr. Hermann.

The debate is sure to intensify now that the CDC recommends the vaccination for boys to prevent penile and throat cancers. If you'd like to have your child vaccinated, the three shot series is available free of charge at the Bay County Health Department.

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Comments are posted from viewers like you and do not always reflect the views of this station.
  • by Trish Location: Panama City Beach on Nov 14, 2011 at 10:42 AM
    80 percent are going to have this. That tells you just how many tramps we have in the world today. I was raised right and do not sleep around because I am a one man woman. My parents brought me up with dignity and not like some trailer trash.
    • reply
      by Jim on Apr 14, 2012 at 01:44 PM in reply to Trish
      You are ignorant. This has nothing to do with Tramps. Do you realize the bacteria, viruses, and fungi you are harboring? This virus can be passed mother to child during birth (like herpes). A one-man woman...what about him? Who did he sleep with, even if it was with one woman? I feel sorry for you.
  • by chloe on Nov 14, 2011 at 01:15 AM
    Most people have herpes/hiv/hpv may feel lonely and shamed. But 70 million are afflicted with STD in the U.S. alone and an estimated over 400 million worldwide. There is an exclusive community Herpeslove.n e t for singles and friends with STD. If you just need to find someone to talk to or need help or advice, this is the best place. Never feel lonely again!
  • by Scot Location: Seattle on Nov 13, 2011 at 12:24 PM
    I had my daughter and son vaccinated at the age of 12 and 11 respectively. This was 5 years ago for my daughter and 2 years ago for my son -- before it was even recommended by the CDC for boys in the US. Because of CDC policy, insurance would not cover my son’s vaccination; we paid over $300 for the series. That and a limited supply of vaccine, meant that we had to wait until our doctor had vaccinated all the girls who wanted it before my son’s turn came. This included the doctor’s daughter and his best friend’s daughter, which were the first and second vaccinations he did. There is only one valid side to this "debate": the scientific one. If you hang your hat on pseudoscience or religion and skip this immunization you roll the dice with the lives of your daughters and daughters-in-law. That’s Darwin in action. If you promote distrust for vaccines in others without scientific evidence, you kill people. That’s shameful.
  • by alan Location: london on Nov 13, 2011 at 06:49 AM
    I just want to tell the people that you are not alone even when you have an STD! There are so many people who have the same situation as you. Also, there are many online communities for you to find support and dating! I recommend you to read the STD inspirational stories on the largest STD support and dating site STDslove. com. Hope that you find the stories helpful and informative.
  • by Anonymous Location: Panama City beach, FL on Nov 12, 2011 at 04:34 PM
    I wish they would have had that vaccine when I was younger. I have had the HPV virus. So far, I have had 3 outpatient surgeries for pre-cancerous cells in my cervix.
  • by Anne Location: Chippewa Falls, WI on Nov 12, 2011 at 08:16 AM
    News 7 gave us a strong promotion of the HPV vaccine but there are clearly two sides to this debate and parents need to get informed. In truth, there is a lot to be concerned with regarding this vaccine. See CBS News report on Gardasil, Feb, 2009 http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=4781857n. Anne Dachel, Media editor: Age of Autism
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