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Healthy Living: Immunizations with Andrea Peaten, FL Dept of Health

We were joined by Andrea “Andee” Peaten, Community Immunization Liaison & HPV Ambassador Program Consultant at the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County to talk all things immunizations & HPV. Read some highlights below from some our conversation, and be sure to check out the whole video to learn more!

1.Why are vaccines important?

  • Vaccines protect us from vaccine preventable diseases

  • The best example to use is Small Pox. Many people today never have really heard of Small Pox or hear a random mention of it through history. In reality, billions of people have been killed by this disease that is unheard of today.

  • The first vaccine that was created was an inoculation by Dr. Edward Jenner. He realized that Milkmaids didn’t get Smallpox because they were around cows, who had a similar disease called Cowpox.

  • He took material from the Cow Pox lesions and started inoculating people, and it started protecting people against Smallpox.

  • It’s now been completely eradicated because of the invention of vaccines.

2. Can children go to school in Pinellas without vaccines? How can someone access their children’s immunization records for proof to the school?

  • Some students can go to school without vaccines in Florida if they get an exemption

  • There are permanent medical exemptions for students who have a medical condition that does not allow for the use of vaccines.

  • There are also temporary exemptions for vaccines because perhaps the child is sick or there is someone in the household with a compromised immune system. These have an expiration date.

  • Overall though there are required vaccines for school.

  • The Flu vaccine is not required, but is highly recommended.

  • You can access your shot records (your child’s or your own) through a program called Florida SHOTS or through your private primary care doctor. Your doctor can print the records or you can get a pin number from your doctor to access your shot records at any time. If you do not have a private doctor you can also go to any county health department In Florida to get your shot records at no cost.

3. If someone doesn’t have medical insurance, how can they get vaccines before the school year?

  • There are a few programs for those who are uninsured or underinsured

  • For children under 19 (who are uninsured or underinsured), there is a program called VFC (Vaccines for Children) that will give all vaccines at no cost at county health departments in Florida. There are some doctors who also participate in this program, so make sure to ask your primary care doctor if you have one.

  • There is another program called Program 17 for anyone who doesn’t fit into the VFC program up to adult age. The program does not cover all vaccines (for example travel vaccines), but vaccines vital to living (HPV, DTap, Flu, Pneumonia, etc).

  • The county health departments participate in this program, & some FQHC’s (Federally Qualified Health Centers) participate in this program. You cannot go to a private doctor to access this program.

4. Tell us about HPV, and why getting an HPV vaccine to protect against it is important.

  • HPV is the cause of many cancers. It causes about 91% of all cervical cancer in women worldwide. It also causes vaginal and vulvar cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, & throat cancer.

  • This is a cancer preventing vaccine (much like the Hepatitis vaccine that protects your liver from liver cancer).

5. Who should get the HPV Vaccine? Is it for girls and boys? What age range is it for?

  • The age range for the vaccine is 9-26 in girls, 9-21 in boys. If boys are in a high risk category then the age range will increase to 26.

  • Its highly recommended to get this vaccine for girls and boys between 10-11. You already must take them in at this time for the Tdap vaccine (it’s a requirement to enter into the 7th grade). You should also get the Meningococcal (for Meningitis) vaccine at this appointment.

6. Is there anything else you would like us to know about the HPV vaccine?

  • There is a lot of misinformation out there about HPV and vaccines.

  • HPV is not just a vaccine for girls. Throat cancer in men has surpassed the number of cervical cancer diagnoses in women. Throat cancer is often fatal because there is no prescreening for it, and many men try to tough out their symptoms.

  • You also need to make sure you complete the HPV series. If you start the HPV vaccine series before 15 you will only need 2 shots, after 15 3 shots are required.

  • You can get the HPV shot over the age of 26, but the later you get it the less responsive your immune system will be. However, your insurance provider may not cover this when you are over 26. The vaccine can be expensive without insurance, so check this first so you know what to expect.

  • HPV can cause cancers, genital warts and hand and foot warts. The HPV vaccine now protects against 9 different strains of HPV that can cause cancers, as well as genital warts.

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