Author: Liz Freeman
The public health department in Immokalee set a goal for getting children vaccinated against cancer and brought home a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award for its high success rate.
The Florida Department of Health in Collier County, specifically the Immokalee location, was named the regional winner of the 2017 HPV Vaccine Award because of its 76.2 percent vaccine series completion rate among 13 to 15 year olds.
A point-in-time survey in August found 560 children aged 13 to 15 in Immokalee had been vaccinated against HPV, according to a health department spokeswoman.
In the last four years, the Immokalee clinic took on an ambitious campaign in the farmworker community to boost HPV vaccination rates, starting with ensuring that all staff members who have contact with clients are knowledgeable about the virus and the vaccine. The virus is common and can cause certain cancer of the genitals, head and neck. There are about 31,000 new cases of cancer a year caused by the virus, according to the CDC.
Controversy is attached to the HPV vaccine by some groups who argue that getting kids vaccinated may promote early sexual interaction with others. State governments that have authority over school vaccination requirements have faced debate over requiring it and over the cost
State Surgeon General and DOH Secretary Dr. Celeste Philip said she was proud of the Immokalee clinic and its success rate for the vaccinating young people against the virus.
“Their commitment to preventing cancers caused by HPV infection and ensuring that every child and parent that visits the clinic are educated about the benefits of the HPV vaccine has a positive impact on the health of their county and our state,” she said in a news release.
The CDC award criteria stipulates that candidates must achieve a vaccination series rate of at least 70 percent of the patient population aged 13 to 15, both girls and boys, seen in the last two years.
Stephanie Vick, administrator of the Collier health department, said the Immokalee team identified a public health challenge and set out to achieve results.
“Their efforts reflect their professionalism and dedication to tackling what for some groups can be a taboo subject and placed the focus upon a universally accepted prevention subject,” Vick said.
People get HPV from another person during sexual contact, and both men and women can get it. A person can get it even if the partner has no sign or symptoms. About 79 million Americans are infected with some type of HPV, and 14 million people become newly infected each year. Most infections go away by themselves within two years, but sometimes it can take longer and can cause cancer of the genitals, in the back of the throat and the tongue.
Since 2006, the CDC has recommended the HPV vaccine, initially in a three-dose series over six months, and then it changed its recommendation to two doses for people before the 15th birthday. The second does should be given six to 12 months after the first dose.