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New initiative aims to improve HPV vaccination rates

Posted: 11:30 PM, Oct 01, 2018
Updated: 2018-10-02 18:43:46-04

The CDC calls it an epidemic.

The Human Papilloma Virus or HPV, is a group of more than 150 related infectious viruses, some of which can lead to cancer.

In fact, HPV associated cancers are on the rise. 

The HPV vaccine is currently available but despite a growing number of young people being vaccinated the rates are still not as high as health experts would like.

That is why Upper Chesapeake Health is creating a new initiative to help.

Harford County Mom, Claudine Riportella is a cancer survivor herself, so getting her kids vaccinated for HPV was a no-brainer.

"As a cancer survivor myself, I thought if there's a vaccine out there that could maybe stop a certain cancer down the road for my kids because there's so many other things that can happen. I didn't really hesitate at all because of that reason," said Riportella. 

The HPV vaccine is the first cancer prevention vaccination.

Pediatrician Dr. Paul Lomonico says it can be given to both male and females typically starting around age 11.

"We usually give it to boys up until 21 years old, girls until 26 years old," said Dr. Lomonico. "Even if they have an HPV strain that could be cancer-related, there are 6/7 different strains that are related to cancer so they can still get the vaccine, in fact, we would encourage it."

Dr. Lomonico says while more females are choosing to vaccinate their children for HPV, the numbers are still not high enough.

"The biggest problem the CDC sees is that while the vaccination rate is going up, the incidents of HPV related cancers is really going up."

Vicki Bands is the Director of Community Outreach with the University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Health. She says in Harford County, vaccination rates are currently only about 33%.

"It's not a required vaccine yet for school which is really part of the problem," said Bands.

Upper Chesapeake Health is focusing on a county-wide initiative to get those HPV vaccinations numbers up. One way is by increasing awareness and education parents and students.

"We really had to bring the school system to the table so we work closely with Harford County Public Schools particularly their Supervisor of Nurses. Parents are very trusting of their school nurses," said Bands. "So what the school nurses have to say and what their opinion might be is really important and they do a lot of education to both parents at the kids."

Together with the community, the goal of Upper Chesapeake Health is to have 80% of eligible children in Harford County vaccinated by the age of 18 before 2020.

Parents if you have questions or concerns, contact your pediatrician. Insurance will cover the cost of the vaccine.