Half of teens at risk for HPV virus aren’t vaccinated
State Representative David Viera presents Paul Lorusso with an award from the state recognizing the contributions the Lyndon Paul Lorusso Charitable Trust has made to Team Maureen.
HPV infections among teenage girls have been cut by 64 percent in the 10 years that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has been available, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Even though this is good news, less than 50% of teens are being immunized, which leaves them at risk for cancers caused by the HPV virus.
Nationwide, four of every 10 girls and six of every 10 boys are unvaccinated against the HPV virus, according to Team Maureen, a North Falmouth group that works to educate about and prevent cervical cancer.
In Massachusetts, just over 50 percent of teens ages 13-17 years are immunized against the virus. The cost of the vaccine is covered, regardless of health insurance coverage.
The HPV virus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. It is acquired through sexual contact and can cause an infection in the cervix that can lead to cervical cancer, according to the CDC.
It can cause cancers of the penis in men, as well as anus, throat and tonsils (oropharyngeal cancers) in both men and women.
The Falmouth Hospital Cancer Committee, in partnership with Team Maureen held a meeting on the issue at Falmouth Hospital recently to talk about ways to educate the public about the value of the HPV vaccine.
More than 35 people from the hospital and various Falmouth medical offices attended the meeting, as well as state Rep. David Viera, Paul Lorusso from the Lyndon Paul Lorusso Charitable Foundation, and Cape Cod Healthcare President and CEO Michael K. Lauf.
Eileen Duffy-Lind, founder of Team Maureen, told the meeting members about the group’s accomplishments as well as the challenges of getting the word out about the importance of immunizing with the HPV vaccine.
Among the challenges they face is figuring out the best way to educate parents and teens about the infections and cancers caused by the HPV virus, she said.
“Parents have become upset with me because they say their children are not going to be sexually active,” said Duffy-Lind, who is a certified pediatric nurse practitioner at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. “This is especially difficult when talking with parents of an 11 or 12-year-old – the ideal time for them to receive the vaccine.”
To help educate parents and children, two Falmouth pediatric offices, Falmouth Pediatrics and Bramblebush Pediatrics, have started an innovative program in partnership with Team Maureen. Teens and parents who arrive at the offices for the teen’s annual physical appointment are given informational materials about HPV and the vaccine when they check in. They are also given a tablet and asked to watch a video about HPV on the Team Maureen website.
The video prepares parents and teens for the discussion with the pediatrician, allowing them to formulate questions before they go in.
[Above Featured Photo: From left to right; State Representative David Viera, Dr. Michael Fishbein, Paul Lorusso (Lyndon Lorusso Charitable Trust) and Eileen Duffy-Lind RN MSN CPNP, founder of Team Maureen.]