There are many bad reasons to not get your kid, or yourself, vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection. The list includes America’s obnoxious and dangerous hysteria about anything related to sex, baseless anti-vaccination fear-mongering, and the widely held belief that women are the only ones who need the vaccine. The politicization of vaccine fears by prominent figures in the Republican Party has exacerbated the problem. Fewer teenage girls are vaccinated against HPV than against any other ailment, while only 1 percent of American males have received the shots.
But a new program from Philadelphia’s Department of Public Health is doing its small part to address these dispiriting numbers. “3 For Me” is a free vaccination program for teens (ages 13-18) offered at two city-run health centers. It is confidential–no parental consent is required–and available to both boys and girls (as the program’s excellent website and literature make clear).
Unfortunately, the city conceives of the program as “a small grass-roots campaign aimed at at-risk teens. It is not a media campaign of any scale,” as Jeff Moran, spokesman for the Philadelphia Department of Health, told me for my article published in today’s Philadelphia City Paper. From what I can tell, this means an advertising push–with SEPTA, say–isn’t in the program’s future. Any steps are better than none, but considering the program’s limited scope is isn’t surprising that only 54 patients have been vaccinated since July. (Philadelphia’s under 18 population, in 2011, was about 345,705.)
You can still get the HPV vaccine (often for free) if you aren’t a teenager, but it can take a bit more effort on your part (especially if your primary care doctor does not offer it for men, as mine did not). And it is still worth getting the shots, despite the widely held misconception that the vaccine can’t help you if you have already been exposed to HPV. Check out my City Paper piece for more details.
Follow Jake on Twitter.