Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Prevention and Education

What is HPV?

HPV is a family of viruses that can spread easily through sexual skin to skin contact. Most infected people don’t know they have HPV because it is possible to be infected without symptoms. HPV is also very common – about four out of five people will get HPV at some point in their lives.

The HPV Vaccine is Cancer Prevention

HPV infection causes most cervical cancers, as well as many other types. It can also cause warts in the genital area as well as other areas of the body. 31,500 people get HPV-related cancers each year in the United States.

Safe and Effective

HPV infection has no treatment, but vaccination can prevent it. The HPV vaccine is over 97% effective and like other vaccines, most side effects are mild. They can include fever, headache, pain, and redness in the arm where the shot was given.

Vaccination Recommendations

The vaccine can be started as early as age 9, and should be completed by age 13. The vaccine is given in two shots, with 6 to 12 months between shots.

The new upper late limit for the HPV vaccine is 45 years old. For people who weren’t vaccinated as children or did not receive the complete series of shots should get vaccinated now. People who receive the first shot after the age of 15 need a total of three shots.

HPV Vaccination Goals and Current Rates

National and State Goals

National immunization goals are set by the Healthy People 2020 project. The HPV vaccine goal is 80% of all teens will complete the series by 2020. Washington state adopted the same goal, but in 2017 was only at 45.4%.

Current Kittitas County HPV Vaccination Rates

Only 42.8% of teens in Kittitas County completed the HPV vaccine series in 2017. This is lower than both the state and national goals.

The HPV Vaccination Project

KCPHD received a grant from the Momentum Fund of the Group Health Foundation to increase Kittitas County HPV vaccination rates.

Community Assessment

In 2018 KCPHD created a community survey as a part of the HPV project. This survey gathered information from local parents and guardians of children 18 years or younger. The goal was to better understand why some parents are vaccinating their children against HPV, and some aren’t. KCPHD is using the survey results to guide and shape how we help increase vaccination rates.

The survey found that:

  • Doctors and other healthcare staff are trusted by parents for vaccine information and recommendations.
  • The risk of cancer is a main reason why children getting the HPV vaccine.
  • Parents are learning about vaccines through the internet, friends, family, and social media.
  • Concern over vaccine safety is the main reason why children are not getting the HPV vaccine.
  • Parents are not worried about the vaccine encouraging sexual activity.

The full survey results report can be found here:

Project Activities

Based on the survey results, KCPHD is focusing on two areas: educating community members about HPV health risks and HPV vaccine safety, and supporting local clinics to make strong vaccine recommendations.

We feel that these activities will result in an increase in Kittitas County HPV vaccination rates.

KCPHD is partnering with local primary care clinics, pediatric clinics, and dental providers. We want to help all staff members follow best practices. We are also improving access to trustworthy healthcare information so community members can learn about the HPV vaccine and other health related topics.

Resources and Links