U.S. Representative Kathy Castor today hosted the nation’s top immunizations specialist, Dr. Anne Schuchat, who warned that while recent outbreaks of infectious diseases have garnered international attention, the public should not forget about those infections like HPV that can be prevented with vaccines. The human papilloma virus still causes thousands of deaths each year nationwide. A safe, highly effective vaccine for boys and girls can prevent the most harmful kinds of HPV and the cancers they cause.
“The girls and boys not vaccinated can result in diseases that may not make the front page of the news, but still be very devastating,” said Dr. Schuchat, director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, speaking at the USF Health Center for Advanced Medical Learning and Simulation in downtown Tampa, where she appeared with clinical providers and researchers from USF Health, Moffitt Cancer Center, and community leaders.
“Florida hovers at the bottom when it comes to HPV vaccination rates,” said Rep. Castor, who earlier this month led the launch of an HPV Awareness & Action Coalition to increase vaccination rates in Tampa Bay. The coalition includes medical professionals, public health researchers, and students – including many present today at CAMLS with Rep. Castor and Dr. Schuchat – to bring this critical public health initiative to the forefront through community outreach and education.
“More than 50 percent of teenage girls in Florida have not received the first dose of the HPV vaccine,” Dr. Schuchat said. She explained that while Florida is ahead of other states when it comes to infant and toddler vaccines, the state lags when it comes to the HPV vaccine and encouraged clinicians and parents to regard it as one of the three routine vaccinations recommended for 11- and 12-year-old girls and boys. The other two vaccines are Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis (Tdap) Vaccine and the Meningococcal Conjugate Vaccine (MCV4).