State renews effort to vaccinate more teens for HPV virus

By John Michaelson
Minnesota News Connection

It’s a vaccine that doctors say helps prevent a number of cancers, but with low coverage rates in Minnesota, the state is launching a new effort to protect more young people from the human papillomavirus (HPV). Only about one-third of girls in Minnesota have received the full three doses of the vaccine. The rate for boys is even lower.

Kris Ehresmann, director of infectious disease, Minnesota Department of Health, says the state’s position is that it is vital to improve these figures for both genders.

“We have an opportunity to prevent cervical cancer and some other cancers among men and women, and we’re not taking advantage of it,” Ehresmann says. “We really want to make sure people are aware of this vaccine and the benefit that it provides.”

The new efforts around HPV in Minnesota are being funded by a $600,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As with any other vaccine, there are possible side effects.

Minnesota was one of seven states and four cities to receive the funds to increase HPV vaccination rates. Ehresmann says the local strategy is threefold.

“One, certainly, is reaching out to high school and middle school-aged children and their families. Another aspect of the project is reaching out to health care providers and making sure that they’re recommending this vaccine just like they do all the other recommended vaccines in the schedule,” she said.

The third part of the campaign includes mailing postcards to the families of all 11- and 12-year-olds in the state to remind them about the HPV vaccine for adolescents.

More information on HPV in Minnesota is available at www.health.state.mn.us.

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