QUINCY, ILL. - It's the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S., but the state of Illinois is lacking in vaccinations against human papillomavirus, or HPV.
"I think parents of young women need to understand that this is something that you want to protect your daughter against. At some point in time, there's a good likelihood that all women will be exposed to this," said Jan Hummel of the Adams County Health Department.
Although HPV can cause cervical cancer later in life, a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control states that about 21 percent of Illinois girls aged 13 to 17 have received the vaccine. That 21 percent ranks 48th out of the 50 states.
"My reaction is shock. We here at the Health Department see a much higher rate of young women, and we're seeing women from 11 years old through 18," Hummel said.
The series of 3 HPV shots are available to both boys and girls. While it's possible that the vaccination rates in Adams County may be a little higher, no matter where you are, the HPV vaccine is still relatively new. That may be a reason for the state's low numbers.
Hummel added, "I think there might be a fear of the unknown - the vaccine has been around for 7 or 8 years. It is not required for entry into school in the state of Illinois so I think that brings a higher degree of reluctance."
Hummel stresses that better outreach and education about HPV may be the best solutions to the issue. Locally, those 18 and younger can receive the shots at the Adams County Health Department, but those 19 and older can get the same service from their own physician.
"When someone is considering getting the HPV vaccine for their child, either a boy or a girl, the younger you can protect them against these viruses, the greater the likelihood that as they grow older, they will not develop the disease," said Hummel.
Each HPV vaccination costs around $160, but there are several health insurance plans that can contribute towards the cost. Those without insurance are required to pay a $10 administration fee for the vaccine at the Adams County Health Department.