Updated Thursday, Oct. 18.
California STD Epidemic
Dr. Petra Jerman, scientist, Public Health Institute (PHI) Center for Research on Adolescent Health and Development
HPV Vaccine (Gardasil)
Deborah Sweitzer, women’s health physician Assistant, North Country Clinic
Mike Pigg, boardmember, Northern Humboldt Union High School District
Kenny Richards, superintendent, Northern Humboldt Union High School District
Shane Brinton, Boardmember, Northern Humboldt Union High School District
Humboldt Exchange Community Currency
Shannon Tracey, member, Democracy Unlimited of Humboldt County
The study says that 2,017 young people contracted an STD in Humboldt County in 2005, placing the cost at $1,800,000. Diseases studied were chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, HPV, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis and HIV.
Some of those are deadly, and a few are preventable. HPV, or Human papillomavirus, leads to cervical cancer, which afflicts about 11,000 women nationwide every year and kills nearly 4,000. A new, highly effective HPV vaccine is available, but at $120 for each of three shots, it’s not cheap.
But last week, the HPV vaccine was deemed eligible for coverage under MediCal, and the California’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program makes it free for girls between the ages of nine and 19.
At its Oct. 9 meeting the Northern Humboldt Union High School District (NHUHSD) Board of Trustees voted not to notify parents of the free, local availability of the HPV vaccine. The board first heard of the matter in June, and will reconsider the matter next month after consulting with health officials.
Oddly, despite the school board’s hesitance to notify parents by mail, the Arcata High School website does feature a notice regarding the vaccine’s availability.
On this Thursday’s KHUM Humboldt Review, we’ll scope out the extent of the STD threat to teens and young adults, examine options for prevention and try and understand the NHUHSD board’s decision.
Below is the letter to parents proposed by Boardmember Kathy Marshall:
Dear parents and/or guardians,
One of Northern Humboldt’s goals is to do everything we can to ensure the health and well-being of our students, your children. Because of this dedication we feel it is important to inform you about new developments in public health that could affect the health of your daughters as they grow older.
In 2007 an estimated 11,150 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 3,670 women will die from it. Nearly all of those cases are attributable to exposure to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), with 70% caused by 2 particular strains of HPV, #s 16 and 18. Last year the first HPV vaccine against these and two other strains became available.
Because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease the best preventive measure is abstinence. However, given that 50% of teenagers have been sexually active by the time they graduate from high school, and that condom use is not entirely effective in preventing HPV transmission, vaccination against the most virulent strains of HPV could help protect your daughters from developing this disease, and, subsequently, cervical cancer. Current public health policy recommends routine HPV vaccination for girls aged 11 and 12, well before they could potentially become sexually active. However, vaccination up to age 26 is also desirable regardless of sexual activity.
The HPV vaccine is available at little to no cost for eligible girls up to19 years of age through California’s Vaccines for Children (VFC) program. Local health care providers who participate in the VFC program include Open Door Health Centers, the Mobile Medical Office, Eureka Pediatrics and the Public Health Department. HPV vaccination is not required for school admission.
To get more information on the prevention, causes, symptoms and treatment of HPV please visit the following website http://www.immunize.org/catg.d/p4207.pdf or call the Public Health Department’s Immunization Clinic at (707) 268-2108.
We hope this information has been helpful to you and your family.
Today I recorded an interview with Boardmember Mike Pigg. He said the NHUHSD’s attorney had reservations about Marshall’s letter, and referred me to the attorney for details. I then called Superintendent Ken Richards, who didn’t have a lot of specifics either other than to say that the district needed to know where county health officials stand on the matter before approvig such a letter.
Both Pigg and Richards expressed surprise and concern about the notice on the AHS website under “Student Health,” which essentially replicates Marshall’s proposed letter.
HPV (Human Papillomavirus Vaccine)
There is a new vaccine to prevent cancer in girls and women. It is called the HPV vaccine. It has been proven to prevent types of the HPV virus, which lead to cancer. It is recommended that girls get vaccinated when they are 11-12 years of age. Girls and women ages 13-26 should also get the vaccine if they did not receive it when they were younger. The HPV vaccine offers protection from both the HPV infection and certain cancers, including cervical cancer, the second leading cause of cancer among women. Immunity from the HPV virus requires three doses of the HPV vaccine: a first dose followed by a second dose in two months and a third dose six-months later. It is an expensive vaccine (about $500) for the three required doses) however can be obtained free through the California Vaccine for Children-Program. Your daughter will automatically qualify for the free vaccine at the Open Door Community Health Centers unless you have insurance that covers this immunization, in which case they will bill your insurance. The vaccine is also provided through the Humboldt County Public Health Department for the cost of $10.00 per dose, for girls 9-18 years. Call, 268-2108, for their current immunization clinic times. If you have any questions, please contact your daughters’ health care provider or call the school nurse, 825-2410.