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CCSC to hand out HPV info

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Parents of teenage girls will soon have to make a tough decision, to get their children tested and vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) or not.

Clay Community Schools will be sending out a letter to parents of all sixth-grade females from the Indiana State Department of Health at the end of this week or the beginning of next week with details about the vaccine. This is a very serious subject, and it is surrounded by controversy.

HPV is a virus that causes infections and some forms of cancer. HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STD). It is spread through bodily contact, skin-to-skin during sexual intercourse. It causes genital warts or infection of the cervix, the upper part of the vagina, which connects to the uterus or womb.

In 2006, the FDA licensed a vaccine that can prevent HPV. It is for young women ages 9-26 years old. It is the first vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer.

More than 11,000 women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and nearly 4,000 will die from it.

There are more than 120 types of HPV, and this vaccine only protects against four types. It protects against types 16 and 18, which are known to cause 70 percent of cervical cancer, and against types 6 and 11 that can cause 90 percent of genital warts.

This vaccine has been found to be 90-100 percent effective in preventing these four types of HPV.

However, the vaccine does not protect those already infected.

The best way to protect against HPV is not to get exposed. Abstinence from sexual intercourse is easily the most effective protection. Condom usage can help, but isn't very effective.

"Part of the problem is that those infected don't know, and so they pass it on," Clay Community Health Services Supervisor Lynn Stoelting said. "Many kids think that they can't get STD's from oral sex, and that is misinformation. Also, just because the vaccine is for females only doesn't mean that males can't get HPV. They can and it can be just as dangerous for them. Studies have shown that HPV is a risk factor for cancer of the penis."

The Centers for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC) recommends the HPV vaccine for all 11 and 12-year-old girls, and for those ages 9-26 who haven't yet been vaccinated.

The controversy rages over whether the state is usurping a parent's rights by trying to create a law that all females must be vaccinated against this disease.

Many parents feel that if their child is not sexually active that there is no reason to get this vaccine.

At this time, it is not a law, however, Public Law 80 says that all sixth-grade females must be made aware of this issue, and parents given the opportunity to decide for their children.

Students in sixth-grade will be sent a form that parents should fill out and send back to the school.

On the form it does state that students may not be prevented from enrolling in, attending, or graduating for not wishing to provide this information to the school.

"We have had many parents, and medical personnel contacting us for more information on this HPV vaccination," said Ann Coker, Director of Client Services, Crisis Pregnancy Center of the Wabash Valley.

"They want to know if it's safe, and more information in general about this disease."

Those wishing to learn more about HPV may contact the Indiana State Department of Health Immunization Program at 1-800-701-0704, or visit www.statehealth.in.gov.

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