Press Release

U.S. Rep. Castor, local health care partners announce initiative to improve FL’s anti-cancer vaccination rate

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Tampa, June 30, 2014 | comments
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor and a community coalition of doctors, nurses, researchers, public health students, health centers and advocates kicked off the HPV Action and Awareness campaign today in front of a local pediatricians’ office in Tampa.
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U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa Bay) and a community coalition of doctors, nurses, researchers, public health students, health centers and advocates kicked off the HPV Action and Awareness campaign today in front of a local pediatricians’ office in Tampa.

“We’re kicking off the HPV Action and Awareness campaign here in Tampa Bay to improve the rate of HPV vaccinations, prevent cancer and save lives,” said U.S. Rep. Castor. 

"Would you want your child to receive a vaccine that could prevent six different types of cancer?” asked Moffitt Cancer Center researcher Dr. Anna Giuliano, one of America’s top researchers into HPV-related cancers.

Florida has the worst rate of HPV vaccinations in the country, and a higher rate of cervical cancer compared to other states. HPV (human papillomavirus) is a very common infection and nearly 80 million people in America have HPV. Pediatricians and health care providers admit that they must do a better job in educating parents regarding this important anti-cancer vaccine for middle school-aged boys and girls. 

On a national average, nearly 54 percent of female adolescents ages 13-17 have received at least one dose of the HPV vaccination, but Florida’s rate is only 40 percent, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The numbers continue to decline for females in the same age group covered by the second and third dose of the HPV vaccination.  Florida has the lowest rate all for three doses -- only 25 percent.

The vaccine is given as a series of three shots over six months. The best protection is achieved after all three doses are given to an individual before he or she is exposed to HPV. Each year, about 21,000 HPV-related cancers could be prevented by getting the HPV vaccine. 

“There is one bottom line here – we have an unprecedented opportunity to prevent multiple cancers in both males and females with one vaccine,” said Dr. Giuliano “We don’t want to be the last ones to benefit from this vaccine.”

The HPV vaccine, introduced to the market six years ago, is extremely safe and the CDC recommends that all boys and girls ages 11 or 12 years get vaccinated. Catch-up vaccines are recommended for males and females if they did not get vaccinated when they were younger. 

HPV lives in the body and usually causes no symptoms, but some types of HPV can cause cervical cancer in women by infecting the cervix and causing the cells to change. HPV can also cause oropharynx cancer and other cancer in males.

Florida’s cervical cancer rate is 8.9 per 100,000 women, according to the University of Miami Medical School, Florida Cancer Data System. Hillsborough County’s incidence rate is even worse at 9.5, and Pinellas County’s rate is 7.4. 

“Tampa Bay is going to hear a lot from this coalition over the next few months, especially during the back-to-school season,” U.S. Rep. Castor said. “We’re reaching out to pediatricians, working with Moffitt and USF and getting community groups involved.”

Parents may contact their pediatrician or health care provider to learn more about the HPV vaccine, which is typically covered by insurance. Vaccines are also offered through the Vaccines For Children program available at public health department clinics and community health centers. More information about the HPV vaccine is also available at www.cdc.gov/hpv

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