St. Jude expert reminds parents to get children necessary HPV vaccinations
In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, stay on track with child vaccinations, advises St. Jude expert
MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE – With September being both Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month, Heather Brandt, Ph.D., director of the HPV Cancer Prevention Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, urges all parents to stay on track with vaccinations, including the HPV vaccination.
“I am asking parents to protect their children by ensuring they get all the necessary vaccinations, including the HPV vaccine,” said Heather Brandt, Ph.D., director of the HPV Cancer Prevention Program at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. “The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination—a safe and effective vaccine that has been proven to prevent six different kinds of cancer most commonly developed in adulthood – can safeguard your child from getting cancer later in life.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends four vaccines during adolescence: seasonal flu, Tdap (tetanus toxoid, reduced diphtheria toxoid and acellular pertussis), HPV, and meningococcal conjugate. In the U.S., the first dose of Tdap and meningococcal coverage among adolescents is in the 90th percentile. Unfortunately, HPV vaccination rates are much lower. In 2019, roughly 57% of girls were up to date on HPV vaccination, and boys’ rates were 52%.
“With September both Gynecological Cancer Awareness Month and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, this is a profound occasion for us to honor those who have these kinds of cancers and to increase awareness of these diseases,” Brandt said. “When it comes to preventing HPV-caused cancers, we have made incredible strides.”
Follow the vaccination schedule from both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics, Brandt advises. The HPV vaccination is recommended at age 11–12 years and can start at age 9. The catch-up HPV vaccination is recommended for everyone through age 18. This is a two- or three-dose series depending on age at initial vaccination.
“While we do not yet have a way to prevent the pediatric cancers that afflict most of our patients at St. Jude, we can prevent HPV cancers,” Brandt said. “Talk with your child’s doctor about getting the HPV vaccine and don't miss this chance to make sure your child is protected in the future.”
Each year in the U.S., 34,800 men and women are diagnosed with an HPV-related cancer, and several hundred thousand more are diagnosed with pre-cancerous conditions (such as women having abnormal Pap tests and testing positive for HPV).
Brandt recently authored a guest opinion piece, Don’t Delay Your Child’s Vaccinations, for Newsweek highlighting the importance of child immunizations.