Another safe and effective vaccine is the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The HPV vaccine prevents cancer and is recommended for children beginning at age 9. Yet, misinformation and a lack of understanding about its benefits discourage parents from getting their children this lifesaving vaccine.
To address misconceptions and help future healthcare professionals be able to communicate the benefits of the HPV vaccine to patients and parents, Christina Wallace with Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Cancer Prevention in Action program (CPiA) provided students in the CiTi BOCES Practical Nursing program with a powerful presentation on the importance of the HPV vaccine.
“HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for virtually all cases of cervical cancer as well as several other types of cancer,” said Wallace. “Fortunately, there is a vaccine that helps protect against HPV infection and associated cancers. According to the American Cancer Society, studies have shown that the HPV vaccine provides close to 100% protection against infections and pre-cancers caused by certain types of HPV.”
Wallace shared with students that the vaccine is a low-risk way to protect an adolescent against certain cancers in the future. According to multiple studies, adolescents who get the two-dose vaccine series between the ages of 9-12 have the strongest immune response against HPV in later years. Wallace also shared that, despite the known safety profile of the HPV vaccine, some parents and guardians are resistant to the vaccine, with some citing safety as their main concern.
“There have been over 270 million doses given worldwide,” said Wallace. “The vaccine has undergone intense trials and studies before, during, and since being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). Even though the vaccine cannot treat existing HPV infections, it may protect against any cancer-causing variants a person hasn’t been exposed to yet.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 42 million Americans are currently infected with at least one type of HPV and an estimated 13 million are infected each year. Promoting the HPV vaccine and encouraging people to get vaccinated can dramatically reduce those numbers.
“Education and prevention is the goal of the CPiA program,” added Wallace. “Nurses are often the first-person patients talk to about their health concerns. Clearing up misconceptions and providing these students with factual information on the benefits of the HPV vaccine better equips them to help those considering vaccination make informed decisions. The feedback we received from students was overwhelmingly positive. Their attentiveness to the presentation and their eagerness to learn more about the HPV vaccine was encouraging.”
“Christina’s presentation really highlighted the importance of HPV vaccination,” said CiTi BOCES Health Occupation Coordinator Elizabeth Rice MSN RN. “The real-life stories that she shared were very poignant. It is so important for a nurse to advocate for patient safety and health. Understanding the information and knowledge regarding HPV and its potential to cause cancer is critical in helping nurses advocate for community and public health.”
The HPV vaccine presentation marks the second time that OCO Cancer Services have partnered with CiTi to educate students on cancer prevention. Wallace had previously met with CiTi cosmetology students regarding skin cancer, the dangers of tanning, and the importance of sun safety.
OCO is a subcontractor of the St. Lawrence Health Initiative to deliver the Cancer Prevention in Action grant locally in Oswego County. To learn more about the Cancer Prevention in Action program, which is supported with funds from the state of New York, please visit https://takeactionagainstcancer.com/. For more information on cancer prevention resources contact OCO Cancer Prevention in Action Program at 315-592-0830.