In Eastern Kentucky, the number of women who die from cervical cancer is alarming. What’s more alarming, nine times of out ten, it could have been prevented.

“As parents, we want to do everything we can to protect our children,” said a local healthcare provider, “and the HPV vaccine does exactly that.”

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer in parts of the body on which the sun doesn’t shine. More specifically, if left untreated, HPV causes 90 percent of cancer in the cervix, vagina, vulva, penis, anus, rectum and the oropharynx – the back of the tongue and throat. Yet, HPV is preventable.

Through a series of 3 vaccination shots, administered when a child is still in adolescence, HPV can be eliminated. Yet, only 39% of Kentucky teenagers are vaccinated, even fewer in rural areas like Knox County.

This, according to a study by the Markey Cancer Center at the University of Kentucky.

As a result, three main misconceptions have emerged as to why parents do not get their child immunized:

It’s only for girls.

Vaccines are generally bad.

It is permission to be promiscuous.

“In reality, almost everyone will get one or more types of HPV at some point in their lives and, in some, the virus will cause genital warts, cervical, vulvar, penile, oral and other cancers,” said an Appalachian healthcare provider.

Public health and government officials have emphasized the importance of making the HPV vaccine a routine part of adolescent health, but it is optional.

At 11 or 12 years old, a child can not consent to the preventative measure. The choice is left up to the parents of the child.


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