Female teenagers in Kansas are among the least likely in the nation to be vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV. That’s according to a recent study from the Kansas Health Institute. Only about 25 percent of Kansas girls had received the full vaccine in 2014.
Gianfranco Pezzino is with the Kansas Health Institute, part of the Immunize Kansas Coalition. He says the rates are low partially because of a stigma attached to the vaccine, which prevents a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer.
“Unfortunately, I think this vaccine at the beginning was marketed and the information was disseminated as a vaccine that would prevent a sexual disease. In reality, we should look at it as a vaccine that prevents cancer," Pezzino says.
Pezzino says it is going to take time to educate parents and health care providers about the benefits of the vaccine.
“Many people and providers are not even aware that we are doing so poorly. They assume our adolescences are getting the vaccine when they need it when in fact that is not the case,” Pezzino says.
The coalition hopes to boost vaccination rates by educating parents and health care providers about the risks of HPV.
Kansas also ranks near the bottom of the list for meningitis vaccination rates.
David Gernon contributed to this story