Montana HPV vaccination rate lower than national average

HPV Vaccine

With January being Cervical Cancer Awareness Month, the Flathead Family Planning clinic is busy doing education outreach efforts in local high schools and in the community.

According to statistics from the Montana Department of Public Health & Human Services, from 2004 to 2013 there were 10 cervical cancer deaths each year in the state.

But cervical cancer is preventable.

Regular screenings, pap smears and the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine can all help prevent it or detect it early on.

The HPV vaccine has been approved for the ages of 9 and 26, for both men and women.

But Michelle Nail-Noftsinger, the medical director at the Flathead Community Health Center, says some parents are still skeptical of this vaccine.

"I think there's a general fear of vaccines in the public, our HPV vaccination rates in the state of Montana is lower than the national average," she said.

She went on to say, “I think folks aren’t necessarily familiar with it as with other vaccines, they feel that it’s a newer vaccine, but it’s actually been out for quite a while now.”

Nail-Noftsinger thinks that the key to reducing this fear of the unknown is with more educational outreach.

Besides their outreach efforts, they’ve also created the Montana Breast and Cervical program to help those without insurance or the right resources to access the vaccine, and to get their annual screenings.

And although cervical cancer screening in Montana is at about the national average, at 76% versus 78%, HPV vaccination rates are at 43% girls and 13% boys.

She says the 2018 goal for the Montana DPHHS is to bring the number closer to 60%.

“If we can vaccinate our young folks, then we can prevent the spread of HPV,” she said.

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