• Most Tennesseans are choosing to not get vaccine for cancer-causing virus

    By: Winnie Wright


    Nearly 80 million people are currently infected with a cancer-causing virus. 

    A vaccine is available to prevent those cancers, but Tennesseans, more than nearly every state in the country, are electing not to get it.

    “Most individuals will be infected with one type of the virus at some point in their life,” said St. Jude Director of Community-Related Research, Andrea Stubbs on Saturday.

    According to the Tennessee Department of Health, HPV is the single greatest risk for cervical cancer. 

    In 2015, there were 288 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed in Tennessee. 

    112 women died of the disease.

    That’s why TDH, St. Jude and others have joined a campaign to educate the public about the HPV vaccine.

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    “Childhood cancer survivors have a 1:2 chance of developing a secondary cancer, so it makes vaccinations for cancer for this particular population extremely important,” Stubbs continued. She said their former patients seem to be following the trend in Tennessee by not getting the Gardasil shot. 

    “We have lots of stigma surrounding the vaccine. We also have community norms, and whether vaccine use is acceptable in communities.”

    The CDC recommends boys and girls to get vaccinated between the ages of 11 and 12 but can start as early as nine and can be given until 26. 

    While it may be off-putting for parents to think about their children’s potential exposure to sexually transmitted diseases, Stubbs said it’s time to have awkward conversations.

    “These are the conversations we’d certainly like to normalize because they are conversations that matter. They can really have an impact on what quality of life looks like,” the researcher said.

    Gardasil is available in most primary care physician offices. For those without insurance, low-cost options are available. 

    For more information on the TBCSP including eligibility requirements, call 615-532-8383, visit www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/fhw/mch-cancer.html or contact your local health department at: www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/localdepartments.html

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