[MMA News Now, Jan. 30, 2014]
In an effort to increase human papillomavirus
(HPV) vaccination rates, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) is launching a public awareness campaign geared toward families of adolescents that includes a direct mailing with vaccination reminders and education opportunities for health care providers. These efforts are made possible through a $600,000 grant that was awarded to MDH by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Despite its cancer-fighting ability, the vaccine is greatly underused, health officials said. According to a 2012 survey, only 33.1 percent of young women in Minnesota had received the full three doses, mirroring the national rate of 33.4 percent, and slightly more than 59 percent of Minnesota girls had received the first dose. Among teen boys, to whom the recommendation was more recently expanded, first-dose vaccine coverage was only 20.8 percent.
"Taking into account cervical cancer alone, if we could vaccinate 80 percent of young women in the U.S. today, we could prevent 98,800 cases of cancer and 31,700 deaths, according to CDC estimates," said Kristen Ehresmann, director of infectious disease for MDH. "Our goal in Minnesota is to reach that 80 percent coverage level of three doses of HPV vaccine for females age 13 to 15 by 2020. We hope this grant will give us a big boost toward that goal."
As part of the strategies MDH will implement using the grant, MDH will offer a variety of in-person and online opportunities for the health care community to update their knowledge and skills regarding adolescent vaccination. According to Ehresmann, “Provider education is important, because studies consistently show that a strong recommendation from a provider is the single best predictor of vaccination and an important factor in a parent's decision to vaccinate their child.”