Don’t Forget Vaccines, Especially HPV, in Back-to-School Preparations
By: Eileen Dawley, RN
Chief Nursing Officer
Galveston County Health District
It may be hard to believe but the back-to-school season has once again arrived. When preparing for a new school year we often first think of pencils, notebooks and other classroom supplies. However, you also need to be sure your child has their most important supply – protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
Immunizations are the best way for parents to protect their children from many potentially life-threatening diseases like measles, whooping cough, chickenpox and some cancers.
It seems most people see through the noise and understand the fact that vaccines are safe and effective. Although the overall immunization rate in Texas is on par with the national average, there is room for improvement, specifically when it comes to the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. The virus is sexually transmitted and very common. Although most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems, it can lead to certain cancers.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 80 million people – that’s one in four – have HPV. Each year about 14 million people, including teens, are infected with the virus. Odds are your child will eventually encounter it.
CDC recommends all kids who are 11 or 12 years old get two shots of HVP vaccine about six to twelve months apart. Adolescents who receive their two shots less than five months apart will require a third dose. The vaccine is recommended for young women through age 26, and young men through age 21.
Let me offer a few more statistics from CDC. Every year in the United States, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in men and women. HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers (about 28,000) from occurring.
Teen boys and girls who did not start or finish the HPV vaccine series when they were younger should get it now. Talk to your child’s doctor about the overwhelming benefits.
Our immunization clinic at the Galveston County Health District (GCHD) offers the HPV vaccine and other vaccines required for school enrollment. The clinic also offers the Meningitis vaccine and others such as the flu vaccine. We accept Children’s Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield, cash, check, credit and debit. Discounts are available for eligible patients.
There is no need for an appointment; just walk on in. The clinic is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with hours extended until 7 p.m. on Tuesdays. Learn more at www.gchd.org/imm or by calling 409-938-2244.
Happy back-to-school season!
Eileen Dawley is the chief nursing officer for the Galveston County Health District, overseeing
community health programs including Tuberculosis, STD-HIV, public health nursing and WIC.