EL PASO, Texas - The El Paso Public Health Department is being recognized for its efforts to maintain successful Human Papillomavirus vaccine rates.
The vaccination program ranks the highest in the state of Texas.
The Department of State Health Services announced that El Paso County's HPV vaccine rate is currently 45.1%.
That number is compared to the state average of 32.3% and the national rate of 34.8%.
HPV is a virus spread through sexual contact and most of the time has no symptoms so people don't know they have it.
Health officials said they are continue to educate parents and the area's youth about the virus, which can lead to more serious medical conditions.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 40 types of genital HPV, some can cause genital warts in both males and females.
The vaccine works to prevent the most common types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer.
Officials said the cases of cervical cancer remain high in Texas.
El Paso's rates stand at between 8.1 and 11 per 100,000 residents. In other major Texas cities the rate ranges from 15 to 34.2 per 100,000 residents.
"We're trying to target the population before they become sexually active and take the risks of getting exposed to the virus. Once they get exposed, the vaccine isn't going to be effective anymore," said Alejandra Rodarte, a supervisor for the Public Health Department.
Rodarte said the recommended age for the vaccine is as young as eleven year old, but the vaccine is licensed for ages nine and up.
She also said education programs and involvement with local school districts help to clear up misconceptions about the vaccine.
"We are trying to change the approach and present it as a prevention against cervical cancer and not as if we're allowing our kids and teenagers to become sexually active," said Rodarte.
The Public Health Department offers discounted prices for the three-dose vaccine for residents under the age of 18 who qualify. Private insurance holders can also get the vaccine at the health department, but the price will vary.
Rodarte said the department is expecting a shipment of vaccines for residents 18 and older who don't have insurance and will be offered for $25 for each vaccine.
Minors must have parental consent to get the vaccine.
For more information, click on link http://home.elpasotexas.gov/health/.