Study shows Texas falls behind in HPV vaccinations

Study shows Texas falls behind in HPV vaccinations (Photo by Kendra Hall ABC 7).

According to a new study, Texas is falling behind the rest of the country in getting vaccinated against Human Papillomavirus (HPV).

It is a controversial topic. Teenage boys and girls are supposed to get this vaccine at a young age to prevent HPV in the future. A pediatrician in Amarillo says she encourages patients get this vaccine, but a lot of parents turn it down.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that it is very common and 9 out of 10 people will get an HPV infection at some point in their lives.

There is a vaccine called Gardasil 9 that protects against it.

"I really look at this as a cancer-preventing vaccine," said Dr. Shari Medford, Pediatrician at Amarillo Children's Clinic. "I don't look at it as a sexually transmitted disease preventing vaccine. This vaccine is the first vaccine ever developed anywhere that prevents cancers. It prevents cervical cancers, etc."

Medford presents it to families this way because she says most parents she sees turn it down initially.

"I think that people in the state of Texas are more conservative and I think that because of the stigma associated with HPV vaccine, I think it brings up sexually transmitted diseases and parents get very concerned that we're promoting promiscuity in their children," said Medford.

"They're children. They're teenagers. Their brains tell them what they're going to do, rather than what their parents have taught them, so it's better to be safe on the cancer part of it than not to be safe," said Crystal Gallegos, mother of three.

Gallegos says she wants to protect her kids against cancer so will have them get the vaccine.

Medford says once someone has HPV, there is not way to get rid of it.

"We've had several girls come in with genital warts and they're just in tears and they can't believe at 17 their parents didn't give them the vaccine," said Medford. "I think that at some point it does need to be discussed with kids and say would you be interested in a vaccine that can maybe later in life prevent you from having a cancer."

Some states require this vaccine for school entry. Texas is not that way and currently has the fifth lowest HPV vaccination rate in the country.

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