Daily Progress, Jacksonville, Texas (09.27.12)
The Department of Public Health in Cherokee County, Texas, is working to change its residents’ negative perception of the HPV vaccine through education. According to Cheryl Hill, health clinic coordinator, the Texas Vaccines for Children program, which is endorsed by Cherokee County Public Health, is offering the three-dose HPV vaccine series free to eligible Cherokee County residents aged 11-18 years. The program’s guidelines require proof of children’s Medicaid or Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment at each vaccine appointment. Clients without insurance coverage pay a $7 administrative fee for the series and youth who turn 19 during the course of the immunization pay $10 throughout the program.
The vaccine is not mandated, but is being made available to those who want it. Hill explained that the health department distributes English- and Spanish-language pamphlets with information about HPV and offers the vaccine when parents take their 11- or 12-year-old child to the clinic for school immunizations. She noted that many parents ask if the child needs it for school. The staff explains the purpose of the vaccine and suggests that the parents think about. Hill said that so far, parents seem surprised to learn how the virus can affect their child. She states that parents don’t think about their child’s sexuality in relation to health because the child is still so young. She observed that the surprise is seen more often with young male clients, whose parents say that the child does not need the vaccine because they think HPV is related to cervical cancer only. Chris Taylor, a parent, cited figures from the county website showing that so far this year, Cherokee County has reported 337 cases of sexually transmitted infections, fewer than the state average of 435, but four times the rate of the national benchmark of 84 cases.
Hill explained that many times people don’t know they have HPV. Someone can have the infection and it clears on its own, but some strains hang around and women don’t know they have it since it goes undetected. For more information, contact Cherokee County Public Health at 903-586-6191.