Increasing HPV Vaccination Rates Among Youth
Today’s youth are alarmingly not being vaccinated against HPV. Two common vaccines exist to combat the human papillomavirus (HPV) are known as Gardasil and Cervarix. Gardasil is the only one of those vaccines to be approved for use in both female and male patients. The decision to vaccinate today’s youth lies in the hands of parents. These vaccines are more effective the younger they are administered to youth, and pharmacists should stress that the series of injections is done before sexual activity occurs. Gardasil and Cervarix alike can be administered beginning at age 11-12, and doing so can help to prevent a variety of cancers that occur due to HPV. These cancers include various genital cancers (penile cancer in males, cervical cancer and cancers of the vulva in females) and mouth/throat cancers, among others. Educating parents on the dangers of HPV is crucial to getting today’s youth vaccinated.
Pharmacy staff can distribute literature on Gardasil and Cervarix to parents who may be inquiring about the vaccines, and address concerns as needed. Often, the topic of sexual activity–especially at such a young age–is seen as taboo discussion in many families. Pharmacies must be on the initiative to stress the importance of these vaccines as a combatant to many cancers and to prevent infection and transmission of HPV. Providing awareness clinics with a local Family Planning or sexual health clinic can be a way for pharmacies to get information out and address customer concerns in a more relaxed environment than at a prescription pickup window.
Pharmacies should stress that just because youth are vaccinated does not mean they are engaging in sexual activity. Stressing honest and open communication between parents and their children regarding anything of the sort is fundamental. Ultimately, the decision to vaccinate is in the hands of parents, youth, and their primary care physician.
The importance of getting the word out about vaccinating against HPV is tantamount, and pharmacies should be aware of local clinics in the area which may be willing to conduct informative lectures for parents and youth to attend to address the issue of sexually transmitted illnesses and ways to prevent them. Some websites offer sexual health brochures that can be printed and distributed, giving customers access to where to find clinics, purchase condoms in bulk, or address their sexuality or sexual health concerns with a counselor or support network. Pharmacists can reach out to local schools and youth organizations within their communities to discuss the importance of preventing HPV via vaccination, and gathering a network of local schools with which to speak will be helpful to any public speaking and youth education campaign your pharmacy may embark on. Connecting to those within your community to reach your customers is an important part of increasing the rates of vaccination among today’s youth.
What are some other tips your pharmacy has for addressing this hot button issue? How can pharmacies stress the importance of vaccinating against HPV while leaving the decision in the hands of parents and youth?