Texas falling behind in HPV vaccinations, study says

As of Jan. 4, seven deaths have been reported by Austin Public Health due to flu-related illnesses.

As of Jan. 4, seven deaths have been reported by Austin Public Health due to flu-related illnesses.

By Alex Arriaga

Texans are falling behind the rest of the country in getting vaccinated against the most common sexually transmitted infection — making them more vulnerable to several types of cancer, a new study says.

Human papillomavirus is preventable through a routine vaccine recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for adolescents, but Texas currently has the fifth-lowest vaccination rate in the country, according to the study released Wednesday by the University of Texas System Office of Health Affairs. The report lays out vaccination coverage estimates for 13- to 17-year-olds in Texas based on data from the National Immunization Survey-Teen.

According to the report, just 39.7 percent of women and 26.5 percent of men in Texas between the ages of 13 and 17 were up-to-date with the vaccine in 2016. Only Wyoming, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah had lower vaccination rates. Rhode Island and the District of Columbia had the highest vaccination rates at 70.8 and 60.2 percent, respectively — both require HPV vaccines for school entry. The national average was 43.4 percent.

About 90 percent of men and 85 percent of women in the United States will contract HPV at some point in their lives, according to the report. Symptoms can include warts on or around the genitals.

More importantly, however, the virus has been linked with cancer of the cervix, vagina, penis, mouth, throat and tonsils. Texas saw 2,801 cases of HPV-associated cancer between 2009 and 2013, according to the CDC.

Vaccination against HPV is ultimately meant to protect against these forms of cancer, said Dr. David Lakey, a former commissioner at the Texas Department of State Health Services and one of the authors of the report.

Some of the misinformation about the virus and the vaccine has made it difficult to reach patients, Lakey said.

“When the vaccine came out, it was labeled as a vaccine against an STD,” he said. “It was thought, 'Our kids will not engage in sexual activity; we don’t need this.'”

Chris Van Deusen, spokesperson for Texas Department of State Health Services, said the department is planning to launch a new childhood immunization campaign in 2018 to increase awareness and improve vaccination rates.

“The public health system, including DSHS and local health departments, certainly encourages vaccination,” Van Deusen said. “Ultimately, of course, that’s a decision parents make in consultation with their child’s health care provider.”

The report also found that HPV vaccination varies across the state. Dallas County had the lowest rate in Texas with 23.9 percent coverage, while El Paso County had the highest with 66 percent.

“Health educators and employees who work with the vaccination program are trained to provide knowledge about vaccinations to our community, a factor in getting people comfortable,” said Armando Saldivar, a City of El Paso Department of Public Health spokesperson. “There’s a mindset that vaccinations are a good thing.”

The report said Hispanic adolescents in the state had the highest rate of vaccine coverage and that men were less likely than women to be vaccinated. It also found that those living in urban areas were more likely to be vaccinated than rural residents.

Greg Parkington, health systems manager at the American Cancer Society, said his group is working to close the geographic and gender gaps in HPV prevention.

"There's a lot of misinformation out there about the vaccine, but bottom line: The vaccine is safe," Parkington said. "It should be no different than getting a polio, measles or mumps vaccine — it's cancer prevention, and people should take a strong interest in the vaccine to protect their children's future."

Disclosure: The University of Texas System has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors is available here.

Reporting is provided as part of Community Impact Newspaper’s partnership with The Texas Tribune

Main Feed: https://www.texastribune.org


MOST RECENT

The Austin metropolitan statistical area surpasses COVID-19 pandemic job losses. (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Austin regains all pandemic job loss, San Antonio nearly misses top 10 best performing metros in the country

The Austin and San Antonio metropolitan statistical areas continue their recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Patrick O'Connell became the fire chief in 2019. (Courtesy city of New Braunfels)
New Braunfels fire chief announces retirement effective Sept. 20

According to city officials, the chief officially retired Sept. 20. Assistant Chief Mike Wehman will serve as the interim chief until a full-time replacement can be found.

The resolution will provide district employees with five additional days on top of the state-mandated 10 days of paid leave. (Lauren Canterberry/Community Impact Newspaper)
Comal ISD approves five days of COVID-specific paid leave

The resolution will provide district employees with five additional days on top of the state mandated 10 days of paid leave.

The facility offers Autism Diagnosis Observation testing and applied behavior analysis therapy. (Courtesy Action Behavior Center)
Action Behavior Centers opens in New Braunfels, works to support families with children on autism spectrum

The new facility offers Autism Diagnosis Observation testing and applied behavior analysis therapy.

 Redistricting is one of the items on the Texas Legislature's third special session, and the state Senate released proposed maps on Sept. 18. (Ali Linan/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas Senate releases proposed redistricting maps as special session begins

Redistricting is one of the items on the third special session, and the state Senate released proposed maps on Sept. 18.

Photo of people attending ACL Fest
City of Austin approves ACL health and safety plan, holds off on final permit

Austin Public Health gave ACL the go-ahead to allow proof of vaccination in lieu of a negative COVID-19 test, but asked organizers to require masking in some areas.

The city of New Braunfels received a net payment of $4,117,696.83 in September for the month of July. (Courtesy Fotolia)
New Braunfels saw an increase of more than $1 million in sales tax for the month of July over last year

The city of New Braunfels received a net payment of $4,117,696.83 in September for the month of July.

A total of 656 confirmed and 341 probable cases were reported from Sept. 13-20 in Comal County. As of Sept. 20, there are 1,567 active cases in the county. (Courtesy National Institutes of Health)
More than 990 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19 reported in Comal County between Sept. 13-20

A total of 656 confirmed and 341 probable cases were reported from Sept. 13-20 in Comal County. As of Sept. 20, there are 1,567 active cases in the county.

Wayback Burgers specializes in cooked-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. (Courtesy Wayback Burgers)
Wayback Burgers coming to Leander; fire kills 75 dogs in Georgetown and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from the Central Texas area.

The brewery will remain open as changes are made. (Courtesy Kelly Meyer)
New owners of New Braunfels Brewing Company hope to combine original offerings with new creations

Brian and Jacklyn Hebert plan to continue serving some customer favorite brews while incorporating new styles and flavors.

Garffer came out on top in a region that included 57 school districts. (Photo courtesy NBISD)
Veramendi Elementary School teacher Melissa Garffer named Region 13 Teacher of the Year

Garffer came out on top in a region that included 57 school districts.