HPV Vaccine Could Save Costly Cancer Battle

New information on the cost of fighting certain types of cancer may help parents decide whether to their children should receive the human papillomavirus vaccine.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the HPV vaccine is important because it protects against cancers, like throat and cervical cancer, caused by HPV infection.

HPV is sexually transmitted, which doctors say, makes the vaccine controversial.

"Some parents feel like it will encourage or give approval for their children to begin having sex," said Dr. Dawn Johnson, a pediatrician with Children's Health.

The CDC reports 60 percent of 13 to 17 year olds received at least one dose of the vaccine last year, an increase of four percent from 2015.

Many children are not completing the vaccination series, but new financial information may sway that statistic.

In Texas, the average cost for the first two years of health care after a diagnosis of oropharyngeal cancer was $139,749, according to a study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.

David R. Lairson, Ph.D., professor of health economics in the Department of Management, Policy and Community Health at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, says that about 72 percent of oropharyngeal cancers are attributable to HPV infection.

However, according to Lairson, in Texas, just 41 percent of girls and 24 percent of boys age 13 to 17 had completed the HPV vaccination series in 2015.

The CDC recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of the HPV vaccine at least six months apart.

"We know that at that age, they have a better response to the vaccine and are more likely to develop immunity to the vaccine. We know that if we vaccinate after 15 years old, their response is weaker," Johnson said.

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