By Jeff Fehlis
As a parent, I would do anything to protect my children. When they were tiny, I childproofed the house. When they set off to the park on a skateboard or bike, a helmet was not optional. When I taught them to drive, wearing a seatbelt was the rule of the road.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus similar to the common cold in terms of the number of people infected. In fact, HPV will infect nearly every person in their lifetime and will cause cancer in many. When I learned I could protect my children from both the virus and six types of cancer with a vaccine, my decision to take action was crystal clear, and I got them vaccinated against HPV.
According to the American Cancer Society, a leader in the fight against cancer, 4 out of 5 Americans will get HPV during their lives. That means nearly every Texan will become infected with HPV at some point in their lifetime.
This year alone, an estimated 1,470 women in Texas will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and more than approximately 1,900 men and women will be diagnosed with throat cancer – all caused by HPV. I live in Texas. These numbers frighten me particularly because they represent people who could be my neighbors, colleagues, friends, or family members.
You can learn more about how the HPV vaccine safely protects children against cancer by visiting cancer.org/hpvtexas. In the meantime, here are three facts that drove it home for me: 1) it’s cancer prevention, 2) it’s safe and effective, and 3) it works best for boys AND girls between ages 9 and 12.
Not that long ago, people lived in fear of deadly infections like smallpox, polio, and hepatitis. Thanks to vaccines, those fears have been eliminated, and millions of lives were saved. Today it’s the HPV vaccine and cancer. Imagine if preteens in the United States were vaccinated against HPV. About 90 percent of HPV cancers could be prevented.
The HPV vaccine delivers on a dream many have held for decades: a cancer prevention vaccine.
As parents, being aware and informed is critical. Be a partner to your pediatrician when it comes to the HPV vaccine. Talk to your child’s health care provider today about preventing six types of cancer with the HPV vaccine. If you missed routine vaccinations during the pandemic, now is the time to get back on track. As parents, it’s up to us to protect our children from HPV cancers.
Father of two
Executive Vice President
American Cancer Society