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Kentucky's New Campaign Focuses on Cancer Prevention, Vaccination

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Kentucky health officials on Monday announced details of a statewide campaign to prevent cervical cancer.

The Kentucky Stop HPV Campaign was designed to bring attention to the human papillomavirus and the vaccine that can prevent genital warts, cervical cancer and oropharyngeal cancers.

The campaign is being funded by a $500,000 federal grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The primary goal of the campaign is to reach parents of 11 and 12 year-old boys and girls to encourage them to vaccinate their children.

Lt. Gov. Crit Luallen, who chairs Kentucky Health Now, which tracks the state's progress on numerous health goals, said this public awareness campaign can significantly reduce the threat of cervical cancer.

"It's the smart thing to do. It's cancer prevention. And as you take a look at the campaign, you'll see that it emphasizes the vaccine's role in protecting children against a potentially dangerous health threat," she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. It is suspected that most sexually active men and women will contract at least one type of HPV in their lifetime.

Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Public Health, said they want all 11 and 12- year- old boys and girls to receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine as well as people up to the age of 26 who have yet to be vaccinated.

"Our low vaccination rates—we must do better. Despite the fact that HPV vaccine has been around since 2006 and can prevent the spread of the virus and associated health risks, not enough Kentuckians are getting it," Mayfield said.

In the U.S., an average of 38 percent of 13 to 17 year olds receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine. In Kentucky, 27 percent of girls receive the recommended three doses of the vaccine, while 19 percent of boys receive only one dosage.

HPV vaccines have been found to be highly effective in preventing targeted HPV types and the most common health problems caused by them.

Recently, WFPL reported that fatalistic beliefs about cancer keep some women in Appalachian Kentucky from completing the recommended three doses.

Correction: A previous version of this story reported 27 percent of girls and 19 percent of boys in Kentucky receive all three doses of the HPV vaccine. This article has been updated to reflect 19 percent of boys only receive one dosage of the vaccine.