Mississippi leads the nation in one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Doctors are urging parents to protect their children by getting the HPV Vaccine.
HPV, the Human Papilloma Virus, is an infection that can cause cervical and other cancers including cancer of the vagina, penis and throat. That's according to Dr. Nneka Holder. She treats adolescents at the University of Mississippi Medical Center. Holder says HPV can remain dormant in the body for years. There are no symptoms until the cancers reach advanced stages. Survival rates are low. It's commonly transmitted through sex. Vaccines are available that target adolescents ideally before they become sexually active. Dr. Holder.
"It can be given as early as nine. The recommended age is actually around age 11 or 12 when typically young people are coming into get their other adolescent associated vaccines such as protection against meningitis, protection against tetanus and pertussis, " said Holder.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently changed its recommendation from three shots to two for youth under 15. Teens 15 and older receive three shots. Mississippi has one of the highest rates of cervical cancer in the nation, according to the state department of health and one of the lowest rates of HPV vaccinations. State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers.
"We have been working to educate not only the public, but we've been targeting pediatricians as well, and primary care physicians to make sure when you see these children don't let that opportunity slip by," said Byers.
Health department clinics offer the shots as part of its Vaccine for Children's Program. Dr. Nneka Holder says studies show children don't see the vaccine as a license to have sex; a concern expressed by some parents.