When it comes to tracking the cancer-preventing HPV vaccination rates for teens in Barton County, or Kansas as a whole for that matter, the picture is cloudy, said Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider.
The state’s Healthy People 2020 target is 80%, with the e Kansas 2018 rate hovering at 62.3%. Based on information from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, the Barton County rate was 67.7%
“As you can tell, we could do better with our rates, but they are not horrible,” Schneider said. “We are getting better, thank goodness.”
But, even though local health departments are held accountable for improving the numbers by the state, it is still difficult for them to get complete statistics, she said. “It is frustrating.”
To get a better handle on where the county sat, she contacted state.
Most vaccination providers in Kansas submit their totals to KSWebIZ, or the Kansas Immunization Information System through the KDHE. KSWebIZ is web-based, and contains lifespan immunization records.
As of Aug. 23, Barton County providers in WebIZ with patients ages 13-17 were:
• Barton County Health Department
• Children’s Clinic of Great Bend
• Clara Barton Medical Clinic – Great Bend
• Clara Barton Medical Clinic – Hoisington
• Heart of Kansas Family Health Care Inc
• St. Rose Family Medicine
• Walgreens Pharmacy
There were 1,596 patients affiliated with these providers, KDHE reported.
Of those, 1,353 required two doses. In this group, 1,035 (76.5%) started the series and 32 (54.1%)completed it. In all, 243 required three doses. Here, 46 (18.9%) started and seven (2.9%) completed it.
Overall, out of the 1,596, 1,081 (67.7%) finished the necessary shots while 739 (46.3%) did not.
But, “there are limitations with this data,” said Chelsea Raybern, senior epidemiologist with Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Not all providers who administer immunizations report immunization data to WebIZ and not all persons in Kansas are represented in WebIZ, so the accuracy of vaccination coverage rates is unknown.
Barriers to doing better
The HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine protects against HPV related cancers, and are recommended for teens ages 13-17. Two dose series recommended for ages 11-13, and doses administered six months apart. If first dose is not given before 15th birthday, a three-dose series is needed.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there,” Schneider said. There are those who believe the vaccine causes long-term ill effects or that kids will feel protected and be promiscuous, neither is supported by any research.
“People can twist the information and their arguments anyway they want,” she said. But, “we have people living and suffering in our area from HPV. It hits closer to home than people think.”
She mentioned cervical, head, neck and other cancers which are attributable to HPV. “We are seeing an upswing in these.”
Sure, there may be some very short-term queasiness from the shot, but it is better than the possible long-term impact, she said.
The purpose of KSWebIZ is to consolidate immunization information among health care professionals, assure adequate immunization levels, and avoid unnecessary immunizations. Registry data is used by healthcare professionals to: monitor the immunization status of children and adults; assure compliance with state statutes on immunization requirements for individuals; identify geographic areas at high risk due to low immunization rates; and to document and assess vaccination coverage during disease outbreaks.