Most college kids think they’re invincible.
Although they’re not, the Texas Medical Association is trying to reach them with important news: They can fight a common cancer-causing virus with a too-seldom-used vaccine.
Every year, more than 30,000 people in the U.S. get cancer from HPV – short for human papillomavirus. Many strains of the sexually transmitted infection can cause cervical, vulvar, vaginal, penile, anal, and oropharyngeal (head and neck) cancers – often decades after the initial infection.
People in their teens and 20s get most of the 14 million new HPV infections each year.
That’s why TMA, through its Be Wise – ImmunizeTM public health campaign, is using unique strategies to target this population where you’d expect to find them: on college campuses and on social media.
With funding help from the TMA Foundation, the association’s philanthropic arm, more than 100 students at Angelo State University in San Angelo and Tyler Junior College in Tyler received free HPV shots at their schools’ health fairs March 5 and 7.
HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get the virus at some point in their lives, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports.
TMA’s social media blast boosted student turnout. Community partnership also was key to the events’ success -- both involved local county medical societies, clinics, health departments, educational institutions, and premedical and nursing students to help give the shots.
The next steps are to encourage students to get their follow-up injections. ASU, for instance, has agreed to stock the vaccine and to register students in ImmTrac – the TMA-backed statewide immunization registry – to inform students if they’ve finished the shot series or need more.
Meanwhile, TMA leaders are carrying out other initiatives to improve Texas’ low vaccination rates and help physicians communicate to young patients and their families the importance of getting the HPV vaccine. March’s Texas Medicine magazine includes a special section – including a video and English and Spanish infographics – to help you talk to your patients about the realities of HPV and the benefits of vaccinations.
Find more information on HPV and vaccinations on the TMA website.
Photos courtesy of Tyler Junior College