download
Kansas City,
14
October
2016
|
10:18 PM
Europe/Amsterdam

435 Magazine: Alarming HPV Statistics for Kansas City

Why an East African nation provides more life-saving vaccinations than Kansas or Missouri

Dr.+Barbara+Pahud+with+daughter

Dr. Barbara Pahud shakes her head in disbelief. As a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, she finds it difficult to believe that people aren’t jumping up and down with joy because a vaccination is available that prevents certain kinds of cancers.

And yet, Kansas and Missouri have two of the lowest vaccination rates in the nation.

“I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, imagine when we create a vaccine that prevents cancer,” Pahud says. “The world’s going to go out and celebrate like we did the Royals. Right? Everybody’s going to go out and be like, ‘Yay!’ And yet, here we are at 30 percent rates.”

The vaccine in question is for human papillomavirus (HPV), the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It can cause cancers of the genital regions in men and women, as well as cancers of the throat, tongue and tonsils. It is one of only two vaccines that prevent cancer; the other is for the Hepatitis B virus that prevents liver cancer.

The two-dose HPV vaccine is FDA-approved to be given at age 9, and recommended for preteen boys and girls at age 11 or 12 because, at this age, children have a higher immune response than older teens. Although the vaccine is recommended for men up to age 21 and for women up to age 26, Pahud and other physicians urge that male and female preteens receive the vaccinations in their primary physicians’ offices as a standard health care protocol, like vaccines for diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, or DTaP.

 

In Kansas, only 25 percent of girls ages 13 through 17 and 20 percent of boys have completed the recommended three-dose series. In Missouri, those stats are 28 percent of girls and only 11 percent of boys.

   In Rwanda, it’s 93 percent.

 
Dr. Barbara Pahud, pediatric infectious disease specialist at Children's Mercy

The HPV vaccine series, covered by insurance, offers lifetime protection for the recommended age ranges.

Recent statistics for Kansas and Missouri are actually even grimmer than the 30 percent Pahud quoted. Sitting in an office at Children’s Mercy’s downtown location, she looked up 2016 statistics:

In Kansas, only 25 percent of girls ages 13 through 17 and 20 percent of boys have completed the recommended three-dose series. In Missouri, those stats are 28 percent of girls and only 11 percent of boys.

In Rwanda, it’s 93 percent.

“Rwanda,” Pahud says emphatically.

The area stats beg the question: Why? Pahud and other physicians believe part of the reason begins with educating their own. Some primary care physicians or pediatricians don’t know enough about HPV and the vaccine to urge patients to get their children immunized.

“Some of the ignorance is at the physician level,” admits Terry T. Tsue, physician-in-chief at the University of Kansas Cancer Center and an ear, nose and throat cancer specialist whose waiting room is full of men in their 50s who have throat cancers because of HPV. “I think in modern-day medical school that’s less so. It’s some of the older-school people who aren’t pushing it, but you’re hearing that less and less.”

The conservative nature of Kansas and Missouri, with state governments that mandate DTaP vaccines for school-age children but not for the HPV vaccine, also plays a part, doctors surmise. Eastern and western states, as well as other parts of the country, for example, have much higher vaccination rates. Washington, D.C., Rhode Island and Virginia require the vaccine. However, U.S. rates are significantly lower than other countries, such as Australia (75 percent) and the United Kingdom (84-92 percent.)

Many parents, too, are uniformed here about HPV and therefore do not even know enough to ask for the vaccine, first introduced in 2006. Some hear the opinions of celebrities who are anti-vaccine and believe that rhetoric to be true. And some who do know about the vaccine and request it have been told by their physicians not to worry about it now. Still others worry the HPV vaccine is a sex vaccine that will give their children the green light to engage in sexual activity, and thus, do not want their children to receive it.

 

Read the full story via 435 Magazine.

Learn more about HPV.

Learn more about the Division of Infectious Diseases at Children's Mercy.