Doctors say HPV vaccine important for men and women

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It may be a vaccine patients passed up but could have gotten because it can prevent cancer.  It's the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.  Illinois ranks almost last in girls who are getting the vaccine and doctors said that could be a mistake because it prevents certain types of cancers in both men and women.

"We really should be getting it at that sixth grade physical," according to Elizabeth Campbell a nurse practitioner at the Millikin/DMH Health Center.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.

"I would say it's a pretty serious disease," said Alissa Diericx, a health educator at the Macon County Health Department.

She added that HPV vaccinations have gone up over the past several years.

"We're pushing it as a cancer prevention vaccination," she said.

Because HPV cancers are showing up in the mouth, throat and anal areas.  Cancers that are in both men and women.

"We're picking up more of those cancers unfortunately because we're seeing a lot more of oral and anal intercourse," Campbell said.

"It's all about protection," Diericx said.

And it's also about prevention, getting vaccinated before someone is sexually active.

"A lot of parents think they're children don't need it at a young age because they'll say I know they're not sexually active but we know we have pregnancies in Macon County as young as 10 years old," Campbell said.

If patients wait to get the vaccine, there's a greater chance they've already been exposed to the virus.

"What we're really trying to do is to prevent them in their later years when they do become sexually active of getting cervical cancer or genital warts," Diericx explained.

So it seems three is key. A series of shots now could help patients later.

The Macon County Health Department has vaccination walk in hours each week from 8:30-11:30 a.m. and 1:00-3:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It's a series of three shots. Each one costs $160 but health officials said it should be covered by insurance.

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