Dear Texas Moms: We Can Do Better - Dr. Jasmin Tiro
Dear Texas moms –
I get it. We are inundated with the daily deluge of decisions about our children. We are constantly on guard for the health of our family. Even as a public health scientist, I sometimes agonize over the choices I make for the well-being of my daughter, 13, and my son, 10 years old.
But there is one decision that was easy for me to make: Two years ago, I took my daughter to get her human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, and next year when my son turns 11, you better believe he will be getting the HPV vaccine as well. This vaccine will help protect my children from six types of cancer for the rest of their lives.
I understand why some parents feel uncertain about this vaccine. There are the conflicting news stories, and we’re bombarded on social media with messages that can cause us to worry and hesitate. I based my decision on scientific data and facts:
HPV vaccination is cancer prevention and the best way to beat cancer is to prevent it.
HPV vaccination is safe and effective.
HPV vaccination is recommended for boys and girls at ages 11-12, before they are exposed to the virus and when medical evidence suggests the immune response is the strongest.
HPV is a common virus similar to the common cold in terms of the number of people infected. About 80 percent of all Americans will get HPV during their lives. Some are able to clear that infection while others develop a persistent infection that leads to pre-cancers. There is no cure, but vaccination, screening, and treatment to remove those pre-cancers can prevent most HPV-related cancers.
Here is a scenario we could see within our lifetimes. Imagine if all 11- to 12-year-olds in the United States were vaccinated against HPV. The American Cancer Society, a leader in the fight against cancer, estimates that 90 percent of HPV-related cancers could be prevented outright with 31,000 fewer cancers each year.
We can make our generation of kids the generation that turns the tide on cancer, but it’s going to take our collective effort as parents. Right now, Texas ranks among the lowest states in completed HPV-vaccinations. We can do better to help save lives and protect our kids from HPV-related cancers.
I encourage you to protect your children against six types of cancer and talk to their pediatrician about the HPV vaccine. For more facts about the HPV vaccine, visit cancer.org/HPVTexas.
A mom just like you,
Jasmin A. Tiro, PhD
Associate Director for Community Outreach, Engagement, & Equity
Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center – UT Southwestern
Texas HPV Coalition