HPV vaccination rate in Iowa below 50 percent

Published: Mar. 5, 2019 at 5:47 PM CST
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The number of new cancer cases in Iowa is about the same as it was last year, according to the 2019 Cancer in Iowa report, released Tuesday by the State Health Registry of Iowa.

However, more and more Iowans are being diagnosed with cancers related to Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.

Doctors said the best way to prevent these cancers is to receive the HPV vaccine, which is most effective when administered to preteens and teens but can be given to adults as old as 26.

However, only 38 percent of Iowans ages 13 to 15 had received that vaccine by 2017. Most eastern Iowa counties in the TV9 viewing area were above that average, but only three — Butler, Bremer and Benton — were at 50 percent or higher.

The Iowa Cancer Registry said a big reason for the lack of vaccinations is the stigma surrounding HPV and the vaccine, who also helps protect against some sexually transmitted diseases.

“It's one of the few vaccinations we have available that will prevent several types of cancer, and I think if you ask anybody who has cancer or has gone through that, they would say, 'I would take any sort of vaccine to avoid that,” said Mary Charlton, associate director of the Iowa Cancer Registry.

Heather Meador, clinical branch supervisor at Linn County Public Health, said there are currently no plans to add the HPV vaccination to the list of school-required vaccinations.