HPV vaccine (copy)

The HPV vaccine, Gardasil.

The ongoing news regarding vaccinations, or lack thereof, for children has been eye-opening and depressing. As a child of the 1950s and ’60s, my parents ensured all appropriate and available vaccinations were administered to protect their children. Whether it was protection against measles, mumps, smallpox or lining up for sugar cubes to thwart polio, it was a no-brainer for my parents to heed the doctor and take appropriate precautions.

Then I read in disbelief of the governor of Kentucky smugly asserting that he exposed his children to chicken pox, commenting that they suffered for a few days but now they’re “immune.” Perhaps Gov. Matt Bevin and others should bone up on science and the fact that the virus remains within the body and can trigger shingles in an adult’s later, more vulnerable years. Women are particularly susceptible. A shingles outbreak near the eyes can result in loss of vision, which is more than a temporary inconvenience.

I cannot fathom the mind-set that seems to have been predicated on faulty science and Facebook posts where an individual notes that their mother’s uncle’s child’s third cousin twice removed had a reaction to a vaccine. Really?

Which brings me to the HPV vaccine. For those who are unaware, there is a vaccine available to prevent someone from contracting certain types of HPV related cancers, such as cervical, penile, head, neck, tongue and anal, impacting females and males. Some 80 percent of the population has the HPV virus in their system, and for those whose bodies cannot rid themselves of the virus, they are susceptible to these and other cancers. In fact, the incidence of oral cancers in men is growing and some have termed the rise as an epidemic.

For parents stretched for funds, there is a federal program in place to subsidize the cost of vaccines for uninsured and under-insured children: Vaccines for Children. For those carrying insurance, there is a very good chance your private insurance covers the cost.

If not, reach out to someone at the Charleston County office of the state Department of Health and Environmental Control and ask about programs to defer, reduce or eliminate the cost of the vaccine and its administration.

Why do I care? In 2015 I was diagnosed with stage 2 cervical cancer. I would maintain that unless you have personally received a cancer diagnosis and been treated for such, you cannot comprehend how brutal the treatments are to your mind and body.

At the time of diagnosis, I assumed I would undergo surgery and be back to work in five weeks. The reality was that I lost almost 9 months before I was able to return to work full-time while I incurred medical bills that grossed close to $1 million.

The HPV cancers and their respective treatment can result in radical hysterectomies and for younger women the inability to conceive or bear children. Other treatment side effects may include physical disfigurement, ureter ligation, pulmonary embolism and a long list of other maladies such as neuropathy, nutritional deficiencies and the inability to take food orally as well as the potential for blood transfusions and the risk that they bear.

Which of these consequences would you wish on your child due to a lack of vaccination?

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Everyone talks about a Cure for Cancer, and in 2016, the “Cancer moonshot” was announced. That’s phenomenal. But right now there is a vaccine to prevent certain cancers from occurring, and South Carolina has one of the nation’s lowest rates of vaccination — dead last in 2016.

This is an opportunity for every loving parent to protect their child.

Please take action.

Pam Nothstein is a retired philanthropic adviser and lives in Mount Pleasant.

Pam Nothstein lives in Mount Pleasant.

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