By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - August 17, 2020
Back-to-school preparations are much different this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. While parents are focusing on school supplies and planning for online learning, health experts are urging them not to skip their children’s annual physical and immunizations.
“While it is important to social distance, wear a mask and practice good hand hygiene to limit exposure to the virus, it is safe and crucial to continue preventive care for our children. This includes receiving immunizations, such as the human papillomavirus vaccine,” said Dr. Anna Giuliano, founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center.
HPV is very common. Roughly 80% of men and women will get an HPV infection in their lifetime. Most will clear the infection, but persistent infection can lead to cancer. The vaccine targets the HPV types that most commonly cause cervical cancer and can cause cancers of the vulva, vagina, anus and oropharynx. It also protects against the HPV types that cause most genital warts.
Giuliano says the vaccine is most effective when given at a young age, but is just as important for adolescents, young adults and even some adults to receive the vaccine. “The vaccine is cancer prevention. Plain and simple,” she said.
If you are concerned with going to a physician’s office during the pandemic, Giuliano offers this advice:
Call, Don’t Cancel
Parents should call their doctor before canceling their appointment. If you have concerns about the coronavirus, ask what is being done to keep patients socially distanced and sanitize waiting and exam rooms. Some providers may offer drive-up vaccination programs to limit exposure.
No Insurance? Help is Available
The pandemic has left many out of work and that could mean a lapse in health insurance. However, there are several programs that could allow your child to get vaccinated at a low or no cost, such as the Vaccines for Children and Children’s Health Insurance programs.
Make a Plan
If you are not able to vaccinate your child this school year, Giuliano stresses the importance of making a catch-up plan with your physician to ensure your child is protected.