More than a dozen health, medicine and family wellness groups today sent a letter to Governor Mike Pence, urging him to support evidence-based public health messaging and to encourage Hoosiers to talk to their health-care providers about the (human papilloma virus) HPV.

Religious conservatives raised objections to a recent letter sent out to parents by the state encouraging them to have their children vaccinated for HPV.  They called it intrusive and infringed on parents rights.   The Pence administration says it is looking for a balance between health and parental rights.

The health organizations sent the letter out today saying the Governor should not shy away from the discussion and go forward in letting Hoosiers know they should talk to their physicians about HPV.

A copy of the letter is below…


November 2, 2015

The Honorable Mike Pence Indiana Statehouse, Room 206 Indianapolis, Indiana 46204

Dear Governor Pence:

Nearly 80 million people in the U.S.—1 in every 4 people—are infected with at least one strain of human papillomavirus (HPV). The infection causes six different types of cancer, including cervical and oral cancer. HPV infections are responsible for nearly 26,000 new cancer cases each year in the United States. The combined cost of HPV-associated cancers and other conditions is estimated to be $8 billion per year in the United States.

Today we have a way to prevent the most costly and deadly consequences of the infection. The HPV vaccine is cancer prevention. The American Academy of Pediatrics and Centers for Disease Control recommends immunization against HPV for all 11-through 12-year-old children as part of the adolescent immunization platform. However, the vaccine is underutilized in Indiana, despite the overwhelming evidence of its safety and effectiveness. HPV vaccination rates for Hoosier boys and girls remain well-below the national average according to the Centers for Disease Control. Fewer than half of teenage girls and only 13 percent of boys are fully vaccinated. That is why we read with concern about plans your administration has to investigate a standard and long-standing practice of public health officials to inform families of the status of their child’s immunization record.

One of the best evidence-based strategies to increase the uptake rate of vaccines is the utilization of state immunization registries. Registry data can be used to help ensure that individuals receive recommended vaccines through the use of reminder/recall systems. The recent controversy over the use of the registry by Indiana State Department of Health is unfounded. The utilization of the state’s Children and Hoosier Immunization Registry Program (CHIRP) database was one of the best communication tools utilized to date. A recent study published in Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention found “a provider’s recommendation is one of the strongest and most consistent predictors of HPV vaccination, yet they often miss opportunities to deliver effective recommendations.” This underscores the important role public health officials must play in providing families with the information they need to make an informed decision.

Concerted and coordinated efforts by multiple public and private organizations are needed to increase HPV vaccine uptake and achieve the vaccines’ potential to prevent cancers. These efforts should promote both initiation of the first dose and completion of all three recommended doses for age-eligible adolescents, as well as young adults who have not received HPV vaccines or who have not received all three doses. The opportunity afforded by HPV vaccines to prevent cancers safely and effectively should not be disregarded. Moving HPV vaccination rates from current levels to 80 percent would prevent an additional 53,000 future cervical cancer cases among girls who now are 12 years old or younger over the course of their lifetimes.

There is a small window of time for boys and girls to be vaccinated and Indiana has a lot of work to do protect against cancers caused by HPV. We applaud Dr. Jerome Adams and the Indiana State Department of Health’s efforts of practicing evidence-based public health messaging and we hope your administration will join us in encouraging everyone to talk to their health care provider about HPV.

With respect,
Lisa K. Robertson, MPH

Executive Director, Indiana Immunization Coalition

Kristin Adams, Ph.D

President & CEO, Indiana Family Health Council

Albertine Allen

Minority Health Coalition of Lake County

Fred Duncan

Director & CEO, Little Red Door Cancer Agency

Kirk & Brenda Forbes

Kristen Forbes EVE Foundation

Tony Gillespie

Director of Public Policy & Engagement, Indiana Minority Health Coalition

Brianna Herndon

American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

Tracy Lewis

Lake County Minority Health Coalition

Karl Nichols

Community Wellness Partners