Kansas has lowest HPV vaccination rate in the U.S. for girls

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- The HPV vaccine is approved for girls and boys to prevent some types of the sexually-transmitted virus. But parents in Kansas, in particular, are shunning the vaccine. A new report from the Centers for Disease Control shows Kansas has the lowest HPV vaccination rate for girls in the country.

It's a busy time of year for shots at Pediatric Partners in Overland Park. Bryce Dewsbury will get some shots as part of his back-to-school physical. One is the HPV vaccine which protects against the sexually-transmitted virus that causes some cancers such as anal and cervical and also genital warts. His mom didn't hesitate to get him protected against HPV. His older sisters have already had the three-shot series.

"When they become sexually active at that point in their lives that they can't be infected with it, first of all. And then second of all, you need to stop the spreading of HPV. We need to stop it," said Erica Dewsbury.

But that mom is in the minority in Kansas in getting the HPV vaccine for her kids. The new CDC report shows teen girls in Kansas have the lowest HPV vaccination rate in the U.S. Thirty-nine percent have had at least one dose, well below the national rate of 57 percent. For boys in Kansas, it's 25 percent, below the national rate of 34 percent.

"I hear all the time my child is not going to be exposed for many years, in fact they're going to wait until they're married for any potential risk of exposure, and that's not what the studies show," said Dr. Jennifer Mellick.

The pediatrician said the majority of teens will potentially have exposure to HPV through sex by the time they graduate from high school, and better for them to get vaccinated before they're exposed.

Dr. Mellick also said the vaccine's safety has gotten a bad rap through the internet.

"Medical professionals have never really had any concern about the safety of HPV compared to the safety of any vaccination," she said.

Dr. Mellick tells parents she's gotten the vaccine for her own children, and that's helped convince some that they should, too.

Missouri also has HPV vaccination rates for girls and boys that are below the national rates.