Author: JoAnne Viviano
Faced with getting her daughter the HPV vaccine, which helps protect against cervical and other cancers, Anaraquel Sanguinetti paused.
The human papillomavirus is spread through sexual contact, and the Westerville mom didn’t want her now-18-year-old daughter to think she was promoting promiscuity. So Sanguinetti did some research. And she had a long talk with her daughter, and another with her doctor.
In the end, daughter Celine got the vaccine last year.
“We are discovering every day new reasons why people obtain cancer, so it’s just another added layer of protection for my daughter for her future, because you just never know,” Sanguetti said. “ I didn’t want to have a regret.”
Sanguetti is in the minority. Though vaccinating against HPV is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and countless cancer centers and health-care providers, most children in the United States have not been vaccinated against HPV.
Calling that “a serious public health threat,” dozens of cancer centers released a joint statement on Wednesday urging more parents and pediatricians to get onboard.
The statement endorses the CDC’s recent revisions to its HPV vaccine recommendations. Vaccinating, the statement says, could help prevent the nearly 40,000 cases of HPV-associated cancers diagnosed in the United States each year.
“Get the HPV vaccine for your child so they don’t have to hear those words: ‘You have cancer,’ “ said Electra Paskett, co-leader of cancer control at Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center, which is among the institutions participating in the effort.
The CDC estimates that as many as 79 million Americans are infected with HPV, which can cause cervical, genital, anal, rectal and throat cancers as well as genital warts. Fourteen million new infections occur each year.
A 2016 CDC report says that only about 42 percent of girls and 28 percent of boys had completed the recommended vaccination series. In Ohio, 35 percent of girls and 23 percent of boys have completed the vaccination course.
In all, 69 National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers are participating in the effort.
The recommendations issued last year say that kids who are 11 or 12 should receive two shots of the HPV vaccine, delivered at least six months apart. The previous recommendation was for three shots, which is still advised for people 15 to 26 years old.
Simplifying the process likely will increase participation and move the nation toward the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s goal of having 80 percent of young people vaccinated by 2020, said Dr. Li Li, associate director for prevention research at Case Western Reserve’s Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“This is one of the few preventable cancers,” he said. “There’s a very unique opportunity for us nationwide to get together to put this forward.”
Li said he’d like to see the state mandate that children receive the vaccine at age 11 or 12 to enroll in school. That’s the rule in three states, he said.
Paskett said recommendations also call for bundling the HPV vaccine with other vaccines given at that age.
“The public has been clamoring for a cancer vaccine for decades, and we now have one and we need to use it,” she said.
Sanguetti said she wanted to make sure her daughter was vaccinated before going off to college. She said she would recommend that other parents do their own research and have their children vaccinated even if it is uncomfortable thinking about their sons or daughters having sex.
“It’s for their future,” she said. “It’s more toward their well-being. It’s not promoting anything other than a preventative for cancer.”
For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/hpv.