According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, affecting over 79 million Americans.

In most common cases, “HPV goes away on its own and does not cause any health problems.”

In order to combat this growing phenomenon, the American Cancer Society hosted an awareness forum on July 17 at its headquarters, geared towards sharing information about HPV exposure and prevention.

The forum featured several prominent healthcare leaders, including representatives from the American Academy of Pediatrics, Georgia Chapter and the Georgia Cancer Control Consortium.

More specifically, a panel discussion discussion at the forum featured national and local experts, including Dr. Richard Wender, who serves as Chief Cancer Control Officer for ACS and Dr. Melinda Wharton, director for the Immunization Services division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The discussion was moderated by Debbie Saslow, Ph.D., senior director for HPV Related and Women’s Cancers at ACS.

Along with stressing benefits of the HPV vaccination, the panel also addressed safety concerns in regard to the vaccination. The panel discussion highlighted the importance of vaccinating children as early as 11-12 years old.

Important takeaways included: HPV vaccination is safe;  the HPV vaccination assists in preventing cervical cancer; the vaccine is effective in both girls and boys; the vaccine does not contain harmful ingredients; and the HPV vaccine does not cause fertility issues

The panel also discussed the utilization of resources such as the Georgia Registry of Immunization Transactions and Services (GRITS), which is a system designed to remind parents and healthcare professionals of opportunities for vaccination.

Brant Woodward, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society, said, “The American Cancer Society is determined to eliminate cervical cancer in the United States within the next 40 years by increasing HPV vaccination rates.”

By improving current HPV vaccination rates, nearly 90 percent of HPV-related cancers can be prevented for both boys and girls.

To the point of gender differences in vaccination, where young men are amongst the lowest rating hpv vaccination groups, Debbie Shallow from the ACS explained that a “TV, radio, and poster” advertising campaign has been developed to help draw more young men towards HPV vaccination.

Wender said that “by eliminating gender disparities,” the state of Georgia can close the gap of low vaccine rates between adolescent boys and girls.

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