MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) — Back to school is a busy time. Parents have to make sure their kids have new supplies, clothes, and backpacks. Parents also now have the chance to put a potentially lifesaving vaccine on their to-do list.
“If there’s a vaccine that’s gonna help prevent cancer in the future. We got a jump on it,” said Lynn Waterbury, a parent living in Mankato.
Waterbury has cancer in her family history and three daughters.
“Luckily enough, the girls were in high school and we could talk about the decision,” Waterbury said.
It’s a discussion about human papillomavirus virus, known HPV.
“Four out of five by age 50 will have high risk HPV," said Dr. Chaun Cox, a family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Mankato.
And it’s a discussion about its link to six types of cancer.
The HPV vaccine is proven to prevent 90% of HPV-caused cancers.
“When you can’t see something or when it’s going to be down the road, it’s hard to always understand how that can help you, but it truly is a great insurance policy," Dr. Cox added.
“Everybody should know about it. Everybody in our community should know what it is and how important it is to get your son or daughter vaccinated. You’re giving them a chance that we didn’t have when we were kids," said American Cancer Society Senior Community Manager Rick Jeddeloh.
“This is really our first tool to prevent cancer,” said Dr. Cox.
As recommended by doctors and the American Cancer Society, it is best to complete the series of two shots before your child’s 13th birthday.
“Looking at it a bit we know that the earlier people get it the better their immune response," said Dr. Cox. "Their immune system is just better so you get better memory and you haven’t been exposed to it.”
First a shot given to girls, it is now recommended for girls and boys. New recommendations also extend to anyone up to age 26, and even age all the way up to age 45, though there’s less data on success rates for older age groups.
“Even if it drops that rate by a third, that’s still a significant benefit to people,” Dr. Cox added.
Dr. Cox says he understands that some parents, and patients, are concerned about the safety of a vaccine that’s only been around since 2006. He says it’s all the perception of risk.
“The harms to it have been minimal, at worst, even when overblown, and the benefits from it, we’re already truly seeing. And to be able to see that in an immunization that prevents cancer is absolutely huge,” Dr. Cox said.
In Blue Earth County, 55% of eligible children are getting the first vaccine, but only 20% are getting the second, according to the American Cancer Society.
“I think of that and I think we’re right about the state average, but there’s still 45% of the kids that have not gotten it, and we have a way to percent cancer," said Jeddeloh. "We’ve got to find a way to get that other 45% in there. And the second vaccine is just as important as the first one.”
“It talks to the importance of having regular exams so if you did miss it, you can come back around and get it the next year," Dr. Cox said.
At the end of the day, everyone in this story is a parent.
“She’s [Jeddeloh’s daughter] going to get her HPV vaccine. Six to 12 months later, she’s going to get the second one,” Jeddeloh said.
“Very excited for them to have that opportunity and have one less thing to worry about,” Dr. Cox said.
“You jump in with both feet," Waterbury said.
The HPV vaccine is recommended, but not a required vaccine for students in the Mankato Area Public School District.
Under some insurance policies, it is covered under preventative care regardless of age.
If you have any questions or concerns, talk to your doctor.