Lawmakers, health officials urge Hoosier parents to get children the HPV vaccine

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It's the leading cause of cervical cancer and there's a vaccine to prevent it, but the Indiana State Department of Health says Hoosiers aren't getting the human papillomavirus  vaccine.

One of the biggest problems is the HPV vaccine is recommended for children and many parents worry the vaccine is a license for their kids to become sexually active.

"The purpose of the HPV vaccine is to prevent cancer, cancers of the throat, the cervix and the anus. The vaccine is extremely effective. It drops those rates of cancer by anywhere from 80 to 90 percent," said Dr. Sarah Bosslet, Witham Health Services Pediatrician.

The sexually transmitted disease HPV is directly linked to cervical cancer and it’s nearly 100 percent preventable. About 80 percent of adults will have the virus at some point in their life. So the vaccine is recommended for children to decrease their chances of getting the disease before they ever become sexually active.

"So the current recommended age to get HPV vaccine is between 11 and 13. We know that it works best if it's started in that age range," Dr. Bosslet said.

Dr. Bosslet says many parents are alarmed by the age recommendations out of fear the vaccine is a permission slip for their children to have sex.

"This isn't a vaccine about sex. This is a vaccine about cancer," Dr. Bosslet said.

New numbers show a drastic amount of Hoosier kids are not vaccinated.

"We are 45th in the nation for young women who start the vaccine series by the 11 to 13 age range and we're last in the nation for young men who start the series and that's worrisome to me because these are preventable diseases," Dr. Bosslet said.

Dr. Bosslet says the other myth buster for parents is that young boys don't need the vaccine.

"A lot of people think my boys don't need it they don't have a cervix. But they can get viruses and warts on their private parts and in their throat so this vaccine works just as well for them at it also prevents spread."

Lawmakers are also getting involved in the push to have Hoosier kids vaccinated. A house bill enacted earlier this year charged the Indiana State Department of Health with identifying new ways to increase the number of vaccinations in our state. In Indiana, there were 1,283 new cervical cancer cases and 446 cervical cancer related deaths from 2011 to 2015.

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