A vaccination known to prevent cervical cancer is still not offered at public health departments in at least five Utah counties. Meanwhile, the state is nearly dead last in the number of girls who get vaccinated.
Since 2006, public health officials across the nation have urged parents to immunize young women with a vaccine that guards against the human papillomavirus or HPV. HPV is known to be a root cause of cervical cancer. But according to a national survey, performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah is 3rd to last in the number of girls ages 13-17 who get the vaccine, which goes by the name Gardasil or Cervarix.
Becky Ward is a health educator with the Utah Department of Health Bureau of Epidemiology. She says the Department is campaigning to get more young people vaccinated.
“Getting the vaccine can help prevent these cancers before that sexual activity was to ever take place down the road somewhere,” Ward says. “Your body would already have the immune response if you were exposed to the HPV virus.”
Utah’s Southwest Public Health Department does not offer HPV vaccinations to patients. That includes clinics in Washington, Beaver, Iron, Garfield and Kane counties.
A spokesperson for that department says there is currently no demand for the vaccine in the region.
Becky Ward says it can be difficult to get young people in for all three doses in the series. She adds health providers may not be talking to patients about the benefits of the vaccine.
“Another piece of this campaign is provider education,” Ward says. “We’ve had a great push in providing tools and messages and information for providers to share with their patients. Parents really do trust their providers and if they make that recommendation for the vaccine they’re more likely to get it.”
In 2011, health officials announced young men should be vaccinated as well.
The state of Utah does not collect data on the number of women or men diagnosed with HPV.