Lt. Governor Crit Luallen’s Communications Office
Lt. Gov. Luallen, Public Health Officials Urge HPV Vaccine for Youth Ages 11, 12

Press Release Date:  Monday, July 13, 2015  
Contact Information:  Kerri Richardson
Terry Sebastian

Kentucky unveils new educational campaign to promote vaccine, stop spread of HPV

FRANKFORT, Ky. – Lieutenant Governor Crit Luallen joined public health officials and advocates today in Frankfort to unveil Kentucky’s new “Stop HPV” campaign. The public awareness campaign, which launches statewide July 20, aims to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus (HPV).

The campaign will feature television, radio and print advertisements promoting the benefits of the vaccine, which is recommended for 11- and 12-year-old boys and girls to prevent HPV infection. The advertisements, developed and produced by Louisville-based Doe Anderson, will be placed in media markets throughout the state. The campaign is funded through a $500,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“As parents, we want to do everything we can to protect our children, and the HPV vaccine does exactly that by significantly reducing a child’s risk of getting HPV-related cancer,” said Lt. Gov. Luallen. “If you want to know more, particularly if you have children between the ages of 11 and 12 years old, we strongly encourage you to talk to your health care provider and make a plan to get your child vaccinated. It will protect your child and help us stop HPV.”

“The HPV vaccine is one of the most powerful tools we have to help us prevent cancer and reach our goal of reducing cancer deaths. Yet many children in Kentucky aren’t being vaccinated,” said Gov. Steve Beshear. “We are excited to launch the Stop HPV campaign so more parents can learn about the benefits of the HPV vaccine and more children in Kentucky will be protected.”

HPV is an extremely common virus and serious health risk. Certain strains of the virus cause cervical and other cancers and diseases. Cervical cancer kills more women in Kentucky than many other parts of the country.

“Immunizations are the cornerstone of the American public health system and have prevented the spread of numerous infectious diseases. Like all other vaccines, the HPV vaccine is safe, effective and should be utilized for the protection of the public’s health,” said Cabinet for Health and Family Services Secretary Audrey Tayse Haynes. “We look forward to the day when the HPV vaccine is a routine part of adolescent health and all Kentuckian children are protected from the HPV virus.” 

In February 2014, Gov. Beshear launched the kyhealthnow initiative in an effort to reverse or significantly reduce the major indicators of poor health in the state. The program set seven major goals to be achieved over five years, including reducing cancer deaths in Kentucky by 10 percent.

The HPV vaccine is identified in the kyhealthnow strategies for reducing cancer deaths with a target of increasing vaccination rates by 25 percent. Currently, only 27 percent of Kentucky’s adolescent females 13 to 17 years old have received the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine, and 19 percent of boys have received one dose of vaccine.

Dr. Hatim Omar, a professor of pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Kentucky (UK) College of Medicine and chief of the division of adolescent medicine, runs an adolescent health clinic at UK. He said rates for HPV vaccination among his patients are nearly 100 percent.

“In reality, almost everyone will get one or more types of HPV at some point in their lives and, in some, the virus will cause genital warts, cervical, vulvar, penile, oral and other cancers,” said Dr. Omar. “The vaccine is safe and effective in preventing 70-90 percent of these diseases, which makes it a no-brainer to have everyone eligible immunized. Furthermore, some babies will get HPV during pregnancy, so it is crucial to vaccinate future moms to protect their babies.”

Dr. Gary S. Marshall, professor of pediatrics and division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Louisville, said immunizations can be tremendously beneficial for parents who face constant worries raising children.

“We spend a lot of time worrying about our teenagers — about everything from driving to drugs to making good career choices. It sucks the life force out of you. Vaccines are a way of taking at least some worries off the list. Fully vaccinated teenagers are much less likely to get influenza, measles, chickenpox, meningitis, whooping cough and HPV-related cancers, among other things. At a minimum, that breathes some of the life force back into you.”

Public health and government officials emphasize the importance of making the HPV vaccine a routine part of adolescent health. In fact, making the vaccine mandatory for school entry is listed as one of the kyhealthnow strategies for reducing cancer deaths.

“At this time, the HPV vaccine is not on the list of immunizations required when your child goes back to school – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t just as important,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Stephanie Mayfield. “We want children who are 11 or 12 years old to get the three-dose series of the HPV vaccine. It can protect your child’s health, so please ask your pediatrician or provider about it when you go in for your child’s back-to-school checkup.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79 million Americans are currently infected with HPV, and about 14 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that most men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.

The target demographic for the HPV vaccine is children who are 11 or 12 years old. Teen boys and girls who did not get the vaccine when they were younger should request it from their provider now. Young women can get the HPV vaccine through age 26, and young men can get vaccinated through age 21. Certain other high-risk populations may be recommended to get the vaccine through age 26, if they did not get HPV vaccine when they were younger.

The HPV vaccine includes three injections given over the course of a year. Shots are given in the arm and, like most injections, can produce some minor discomfort. These common side effects go away on their own and include pain, redness at injection site and soreness of the arm from the shot, mild or moderate fever and headache.  Many people who get the HPV vaccine have no side effects at all.

If you are insured, health plans also cover the cost of the HPV vaccine. The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program helps families of eligible children who might not otherwise have access to vaccines. The program provides vaccines at no cost to doctors who serve eligible children. Children younger than 19 years of age are eligible for VFC vaccines if they are Medicaid-eligible, American Indian or Alaska Native or have no health insurance. To learn more see VFC program.

The HPV vaccine is offered in a variety of health care settings, including family practice and pediatric providers. Local health departments also provide the vaccine. If you are unsure if the vaccine is available in your community, call your health care provider or your local health department for more information.

More information about the HPV vaccine and Kentucky’s Stop HPV campaign can be found at


HPV Fact Sheet (PDF)