By Pamela Tom | HPVANDME Founder
Hope is defined as “the feeling that what is wanted can be had or that events will turn out for the best.” Our hope to eliminate HPV cancers in future generations is possible. The truth can prevail over misinformation. Misconceptions about the HPV vaccine, and other vaccines, are dangerous and cost lives. For instance, in 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) called “vaccine hesitancy” as one of the top ten threats to global health.
Earlier this month, the Kaiser Family Foundation released recent poll findings:
- 28% of adults surveyed this summer were against vaccination requirements for kids entering kindergarten, up from 16% in 2019.
- 35% of surveyed parents said it should be up to moms and dads whether to have their kids vaccinated, up from 23% in 2019.
What’s behind this trend? CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told NBC News, “As I think about the challenges that we have to public health, vaccine misinformation is among the biggest threats.”
COVID vaccine hesitancy prompted much of the shift. Now, Dr. Walensky says parents are transferring their fears onto traditional childhood vaccinations: flu, measles, MMR, and we predict, the HPV vaccine.
The source: vaccine misinformation, often spread around on social media platforms. For example, the myths about the COVID vaccine include that it affects a woman’s fertility; produces dangerous side effects; and even that it could cause COVID itself. Other myths, according to publichealth.org, focus on the power of natural immunity and relying on herd immunity as viable alternatives to vaccination.
When it comes to the HPV vaccine, a recent study found that unvaccinated people are benefitting from herd immunity. However, the study’s authors warned that because the COVID pandemic slowed vaccination rates of all kinds, providers must help their patients catch up on vaccination in order for herd immunity to continue moving in a positive direction.
The truth is, HPV remains the most common STI in the United States. HPV-positive oropharyngeal or throat cancer (base of tongue, tonsils, soft palate) is now the #1 HPV cancer in the US. Cervical cancer, caused by HPV, ranks as the fourth most frequent cancer in women worldwide.
Educating Hesitant Parents
The CDC recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls at age 11 to 12, and as early as nine years-old. In an online world of vaccine misinformation, parents require a trusted voice whom they can talk to and ask questions. This is most likely their child’s pediatrician, or perhaps a local health leader or clergy member.
“Messaging at a national level is not going to necessarily reach the communities that are under- and unvaccinated,” Dr. Walensky told NBC.
Here are resources to begin learning about HPV cancer prevention:
Immunize.org—A Parent’s Guide to Preteen and Teen HPV Vaccination
HPV vaccination can prevent more than 90% of HPV-attributable cancers in men and women in the future.
HealthyChildren.org—Here’s Why Your Preteen Needs the HPV Vaccine
Kids are protected from cancer before they are exposed to the virus. Giving the vaccine earlier also means they can be protected well before they are exposed to the virus. That’s what you want—because this is a vaccine that can actually prevent cancer.
HPVANDME.org—About the HPV Vaccine
Prior to the FDA’s approval of Gardasil 9, the vaccine underwent multiple studies, evaluating its safety in more than 15-thousand males and females. The findings found Gardasil 9 is safe and effective.
As we begin 2023, let’s make it the year when we get HPV vaccination rates back on track. The HPV vaccine helps prevent six HPV-related cancers—cervical, oral, vaginal, vulvar, anal and penile cancers—when the recipients become adults.