13:49 PM

Texas Ranks Near Last in HPV Vaccination Rate

Pediatrician expresses concern, but offers hope for parents

A new study shows Texas ranks 47th in cancer-preventing vaccine coverage, showing that Texans aren’t getting the message about the dangers of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, Texas only ranked higher than Utah, South Carolina, Wyoming and Mississippi for HPV vaccination coverage, according to researchers at The University of Texas System and UT Health Northeast. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection and is responsible for 90 percent of cervical cancer cases as well as thousands of oral cancer cases each year.

The study found that only 39.7 percent of females and 26.5 percent of males in Texas between the ages of 13 and 17 were up-to-date with the vaccine in 2016. The national average was 43.4 percent.

“This study is particularly frustrating because a routine vaccine recommended by the CDC and other leading health organizations around the world can prevent HPV,” said Jason V. Terk, a Cook Children’s pediatrician. “A simple shot can mean the difference in life and death. Unfortunately, most Texans are not getting the importance of this message.”

The Texas System Offices of Health Affairs states that about 90 percent of men and 85 percent of women in the United States will contract HPV at some point in their lives.

By the year 2020, experts believe head and neck cancer will surpass cervical cancer as the most common cancer caused by HPV.

Across the country, the number of children who receive the HPV vaccine is very low compared to other vaccines they are scheduled to receive at the same time. This is despite the fact that meningitis and pertussis are much less common than HPV.

“One of the major problems with HPV is that it may be 20 or 30 years before a person develops cancer due to an infection that happens in the teen years,” Dr. Terk said. “Waiting until you think HPV is a risk is too late. We have to make every effort to provide our patients the HPV vaccine so we can put an end to the thousands of teens who move through Cook Children’s without ever gaining this indispensable protection.”

That’s the good news that Dr. Terk wants parents to know: HPV can be prevented.

The FDA has approved vaccines that prevent the HPV strains that are associated with cancers of the cervix and head and neck. Boys and girls can begin the vaccination process as early as age 9.

"This is a relevant issue for all parents,” Dr. Terk said. “We have a vaccine that can prevent cancer. Parents should start the vaccination process as soon as their pediatrician recommends.”

Get to know Jason Terk, M.D.

Dr. Terk is a Cook Children's pediatrician at Keller Parkway. Dr. Terk earned his medical degree from University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas. He completed his residency in pediatrics at Mayo Graduate School of Medicine (Mayo Clinic) in Rochester, Minnesota. His interests include public policy advocacy for children's health issues, focusing primarily on vaccines. Dr. Terk is board-certified in pediatrics. New and exisiting Cook Children's Keller pediatrician office patients can make an appointment by calling 817-968-1200 or through the button below to access Cook Children's Patient Portal.