March 4th is International HPV Awareness Day

Almost all of us will have HPV at some point and while for most of us it isn’t harmful, HPV is linked to several kinds of cancer. There is a vaccine that can prevent HPV infection and prevent most HPV related cancers. The Malheur County Health Department has the HPV vaccine and has many appointment times available throughout the week for immunizations. HPV vaccine is recommended for routine vaccination at age 11 or 12 years. (Vaccination can be started at age 9.)  CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) also recommends vaccination for everyone through age 26 years if not adequately vaccinated when younger.

The International HPV Awareness Campaign is a key initiative of the International Papillomavirus Society (IPVS) which aims to increase public awareness of the virus as part of their mission to improve understanding of HPV and the importance of prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of papillomavirus-related diseases.

Educating ourselves and others about HPV and cancer is the first step to reducing our risk. Find out more about the public information resources available to help spread the word. Below are answers to frequently asked questions about HPV.

What is HPV?

HPV means “human papillomavirus”. It’s a very common virus. 8 out of 10 men and women will get it at some point. Lots of people have never heard of it, but HPVs are a very big family of viruses.

There are around 200 types of HPV. Some types of HPV are transmitted by sexual contact and infect the skin cells of the genital region and the mouth and throat. Most cause no harm. But some HPVs cause warts and some can cause cancers. Both men and women get cancer from HPV, and rates are accelerating fastest in men. These cancers include cervical cancer and cancer of the penis, anus, vagina, vulva, and throat.

How can I avoid getting HPV?

HPV is a common virus and avoiding it can be difficult. About 8 out of 10 sexually active people get at least one genital HPV infection at some point in their lives! But there are a few things you can do to reduce the risk:

  1. The best way to prevent HPV is to be vaccinated at the recommended age. Get vaccinated to prevent HPV infection if you are eligible for the vaccine, or if your health care provider thinks you might benefit from it. Vaccination can prevent 90% of cervical and anal cancers and most other cancers caused by HPV. The vaccine is most effective if given before you have any sexual contact. Talk to your healthcare provider or call our office at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.
  2. Use condoms whenever you can. Consistent condom use can reduce (but not eliminate) the risk of getting HPV. This is because HPV is passed on by skin-to-skin contact. Condoms only partially protect the skin of the genital region. The more consistent the use of condoms, the higher the amount of protection. Condom use 100% of the time reduces the risk of spreading HPV by about 70%. Less consistent use means less protection.
  3. The fewer sexual partners you or your partner have, the lower your risk of getting HPV.

I’ve had the HPV vaccine – do I still need to be screened?

The vaccine reduces your risk of HPV-related cancers by about 90%. But even if you have had the HPV vaccine, you still need to have cervical screening. This is because the vaccine will not protect you against HPV types that you may have acquired before being vaccinated. In addition, you might still get infected after vaccination with the rarer HPV types that can cause cancer but which are not covered by the vaccine.

I’m a boy – do I need to know about HPV?

Yes—you are at risk for HPV and the cancers that it causes. HPV can cause genital warts as well as cancers of the anus, penis and mouth/throat in men. You can also spread HPV to your sexual partners. All of the currently available vaccines prevent infection with HPV types that cause most HPV-related cancers, and some vaccines also protect against the types that cause genital warts. The most important step you can take to prevent HPV is to get vaccinated before you have sex.

We CAN eliminate HPV and create one less worry for our world. Learn more here.

Lower your cancer risk with public health services

February is National Cancer Prevention Month! In 2022, an estimated 1.9 million new cancer cases were diagnosed and 609,360 people died of cancer in the United States. Research has shown that more than 40 percent of all cancers diagnosed and nearly half of all deaths from cancer in the United States can be attributed to preventable causes – things like smoking, excess body weight, physical inactivity, and excessive exposure to the sun.

As a result, steps such as quitting smoking (or never starting in the first place), maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, protecting your skin from the sun, getting tested and treated for communicable diseases, and getting vaccinated against the pathogens that cause certain cancers can dramatically reduce your risk of certain cancers.

There are many ways our team at the Malheur County Health Department can help you and your family reduce cancer risk:

  • Reproductive Health program provides pelvic exams, pap smears, health education and counseling.
  • Immunization program provides HPV vaccine, which protects children from 6 types of cancer later in life. The HPV vaccine recommended for boys and girls aged 9-12 and up to age 26 if not already vaccinated. Vaccines also available to protect against Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, which can cause liver cancer.
  • Tobacco Education and Prevention program can help create policies for smoke-free spaces, provide education, and refer to Quit Line services.
  • WIC program provides nutrition counseling for pregnant women and children up to age 5. Our Registered Dietician and WIC Certifiers provide education on how to follow a healthy diet that can lower cancer risk.
  • Communicable Disease and STI testing programs provide rapid testing for several infections that can cause cancer. Hepatitis can cause liver cancer. Chlamydia increases risk of cervical cancer. People with HIV are susceptible to several cancers, including Kaposi sarcoma.

Learn more about National Cancer Prevention Month from the American Association for Cancer Research and American Cancer Society.

Have you earned $100 through our Health is Wealth program?

Last August, we launched Health is Wealth, an incentive program to increase recommended surveillance testing, immunization, and awareness of public health services.

People can walk in to our clinic (1108 SW 4th St, Ontario) or call MCHD at 541-889-7279 to schedule time for testing, vaccine, and short informative sessions with staff. Participants will receive a Health is Wealth card (see graphic above) that will keep track of their progress through 10 core programs. Upon completion, the first 100 participants will receive a $100 gift card. So far, we’ve given out 47 of the 100 gift cards available. Our goal is to give another 53 out by the end of June.

The goal is for people to experience public health as an important part of their healthcare, get to know staff, and connect the people in their lives to available services.

Eligibility: Health is Wealth program participants must be 18 years old or older. Participants must be present to receive services, complete paperwork, and present the completed card to MCHD front desk to receive gift card. The Health is Wealth card must be started by June 30, 2023. One hundred gift cards are available and once that supply is exhausted, there is no guarantee a gift card will be provided.

Requirements: Participants must receive a stamp for each of the 10 programs, from MCHD employees on the Health is Wealth card, within 12 months of the start date on card. Immunizations must be up to date, including COVID-19 vaccines, as verified in the Oregon or Idaho immunization registries. Participants must receive testing for HIV, syphilis, hepatitis C, chlamydia and gonorrhea, or have record of tests within the last 12 months. Participants must schedule and complete short educational sessions with each program to receive a stamp.

Share these flyers in English and Spanish:

The Centers for Disease Control recommends all adults get tested for hepatitis C and that everyone should be tested for HIV at least once in their life, regardless of risk factors. With climbing rates of communicable disease, more testing is needed to identify infections, many of show no symptoms. Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer, however, with treatment, hepatitis C infection is curable. Early detection can save your life. Cases of HIV, syphilis, and gonorrhea are also going up in Malheur County. Testing can give people peace of mind and more information about their overall health.

Along with increased testing, the Health is Wealth program aims to get more adults up to date on recommended vaccines. Immunizations are not just for children. Protection from some childhood vaccines can wear off over time. You may also be at risk for vaccine-preventable disease due to your age, job, lifestyle, travel, or health conditions. All adults need immunizations to help them prevent getting and spreading serious diseases that could result in poor health, missed work, medical bills, and not being able to care for family.

Public health promotes the wellbeing of the entire population of Malheur County and helps to ensure access to safe and quality care. Public health is for everyone! Visit or call 541-889-7279 for more information.

Nyssa School Vaccine Clinic Friday, 11/13

Make sure your children are up to date on their vaccines! We’re bringing vaccines to Nyssa Elementary School in the Mac Hall Gym (809 Bower Ave, Nyssa) Friday, January 13, 2023 from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Share the flyers in English and Spanish. All ages welcome–family and guardians, too!

Parents must provide schools and child care facilities with kids’ vaccine records.

Getting your children vaccinated now is critical! February 15th is School Exclusion Day, and the Oregon Immunization Program is reminding parents that children will not be able to attend school or child care starting that day if their records on file show missing immunizations.

Under state law, all children in public and private schools, preschools, Head Start and certified child care facilities must have up-to-date documentation on their immunizations or have an exemption. If a child’s school and child care vaccination records are not up to date on February 15th, the child will be sent home.

“Immunization is the best way to protect children against vaccine-preventable diseases such as whooping cough and measles. It helps keep schools and the entire community safe and healthy.”

Stacy de Assis Matthews, school law coordinator in the Oregon Health Authority Public Health Division

Call our office at 541-889-7279 for an appointment that is convenient for you if you can’t make it to this event. Appointments available all weekdays. Walk ins welcome and we’ll get you in or scheduled as soon as possible.

23% of Women Overdue for Cervical Screening

January is Cervical Health Awareness Month! Cervical cancer screening has dramatically reduced new cases and deaths from the disease over the past 50 years. But the percentage of women in the United States who are overdue for cervical cancer screening has been growing.

The lack of screening also shows concerning disparities among groups of women. In 2019, Asian and Hispanic women were more likely to be overdue for screening, as were women who lived in rural areas, lacked insurance, or identified as LGBTIQ+.

Our caring team at the Malheur County Health Department wants to help protect people from cervical cancer with HPV vaccine and screening. Services are available for free or low cost. Call us at 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Article adapted from the CDC and

Take action to lower risk for children as RSV & flu cases increase

State health officials are asking people to take immediate, urgent action to protect children and ensure there are pediatric intensive care beds available in Oregon hospitals to treat any child or youth with a serious illness or injury. Oregon health officials expect respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) cases to peak after the Thanksgiving holiday, which will further strain pediatric hospital intensive care units. The graph below was shared on November 18th by OHSU, projecting severe strain on hospitals.

Malheur County is affected by both Oregon and Idaho cases and hospital capacity. Earlier this month, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare reported an early RSV season and the first influenza death of the season. The chart below was shared on the Idaho State Journal on November 16th. Hospitalizations have continued to increase since.

In response to Oregon’s acute shortage of pediatric intensive care beds, state health officials recommend that people:

  • Stay home when sick.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes with the inside of your elbow, or with a tissue that you immediately throw away after use.
  • Clean and disinfect all high-touch surfaces, including doorknobs, faucets, chairs, countertops and tables.
  • Regularly wash hands with soap and water or use hand sanitizer, especially after coughing or sneezing into a tissue.
  • Get a flu shot and stay up to date on COVID-19 vaccinations, including new bivalent boosters. There is no vaccine for RSV.
  • Consider wearing a mask in crowded indoor spaces.

Parents of children younger than 5, especially newborns to 6-month-olds, are especially advised to take precautions that keep their children safe and help to limit the spread of RSV and influenza in coming weeks. Young children, as well as older adults – people 65 and older – are at higher risk of severe illness from these respiratory viruses, including hospitalization and death.

Data showing that the RSV hospitalization rate for children quadrupled between Oct. 29 and Nov. 19, from 2.7 to 10.8 children per 100,000 population. RSV hospitalizations are expected to rise further over the next few weeks.

Hospitalizations are also being fueled by a rapid increase in influenza cases around the state. According to OHA’s weekly Flu Bites influenza surveillance report, the percentage of positive influenza tests has doubled each week since mid-October – it was 1% the week ending Oct. 22, 2% on Oct. 29, 4.5% on Nov. 5, 9.3% on Nov. 12 and 16.4% on Nov. 19.

A 5% positivity rate for influenza tests is considered a threshold for significant influenza circulation.

While cold-like symptoms are more typical of RSV infections, some children can experience severe symptoms requiring immediate care. Parents should call their pediatrician or seek care right away if child has any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing or increased work of breathing.
  • Symptoms of dehydration, or fewer than one wet diaper every eight hours.
  • Gray or blue color to tongue, lips or skin.
  • Decreased activity and alertness.

For more information about RSV, visit OHA’s RSV page. Information about influenza is available at OHA’s Flu Prevention page. Follow all OHA news here.

How to talk with others about getting the COVID-19 vaccine

Here is the truth: COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe, and they work. They are highly effective at helping prevent hospitalizations and severe COVID-19 illness. Being vaccinated and boosted allows people to move through life with a semblance of normalcy.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of false information out there about COVID-19 vaccines that can lead some of our friends and family members to decide not to get vaccinated. Some may be skeptical of the vaccines’ safety and effectiveness, while others may be afraid of the vaccination process. Even though you may disagree, it can be a touchy subject and daunting to bring up in conversation.

If you want to engage friends and family in a conversation about COVID-19 vaccines, the best approach is a thoughtful approach. With holiday gatherings around the corner, now is the perfect time to prepare.

“It is important to enter the conversation not with the intention of convincing or persuading someone to change their mind, but to learn about their barriers,” said Dr. Ruth Zúñiga, Oregon Health Authority senior health advisor and licensed psychologist. “Once you understand someone’s barriers, maintain trust by trying to support them in whatever stage of their journey they’re in.”

Here are some tips for how to have a respectful and productive conversation about the benefits and safety of being vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19.

Have an open mind

Entering the conversation with an open mind will make it easier to gather information and understand the other person’s perspective. Listen with curiosity and don’t interrupt. Show them you are listening by paying attention, removing distractions like cellphones and keeping your body language relaxed. Even if you don’t agree with their reasoning, try to validate their feelings and show gratitude for their willingness to share: e.g. “I know this conversation can be difficult, and I appreciate you having it with me. I am sorry if this situation is causing you stress or confusion.”

Listen, withhold judgment

If you allow ample time for the other person to talk without reacting or responding, you have a better chance of having a positive and meaningful conversation. Ask open-ended questions to understand their perspective. You can start by asking them about specific concerns and where they get their information. Questions such as, “What are you concerned about?” or “What have you heard?” are respectful and do not expose your own opinions (which could shut them down or, worse, lead to arguing). Show that you are listening by responding to their comments with respect and kindness, and not changing the subject or steamrolling the conversation. If you don’t agree with what they say, avoid challenging or contradicting them.

Connect on shared values

During the conversation, point out where you agree on shared values. Acknowledging common ground between your viewpoints can help remove tension. For example, if someone is expressing fear over the safety of the vaccine, let them know you felt scared at first, too, but you felt better after being vaccinated. The conversation should be one of encouragement, not a fight or competition. Connecting on core beliefs (the desire to have a normal life, prioritizing health, fear of the unknown) can remind them you do not see them as ‘the opposition.’

Work to replace misinformation with new information

If their view is informed by misinformation, ask if it’s OK to share resources with them to address their concerns. But you should use the conversation to gather information first, not to lecture. Be an active listener, jotting down notes if appropriate, so you can follow up later with links to resources they may connect with later. Doing your own focused research for someone shows that you are willing to put in the effort to support them, but don’t overwhelm them with information. Respect their answer if they do not want to receive resources.

Offer in-person support

Depending on the situation, try offering support if they decide to look into getting vaccinated. Whether that means sitting together while you both research vaccination site locations, or joining them when they get the vaccine, can provide comfort. For some people, getting vaccinated is quick and simple. Others may not have the time or ability to access a vaccination clinic, and you could offer practical support such as transportation, babysitting or translating for someone who does not speak English if you can. Whatever stage in the process they are in, ask what would be helpful.  

Show them you care

The willingness to have a tough conversation usually comes from a place of love. When a person you care about acts in a way that you don’t agree with, it can be tempting to feel angry, hurt or frustrated. If you find yourself becoming upset during the conversation, take deep breaths and remind yourself – and your friend or loved one – that you are having this conversation because you care. Coming on too strong, or with the wrong intentions, can make people defensive and unlikely to change their minds.

You may not get the result you’re hoping for right away, but the health of our loved ones and communities is worth working for. By showing up and having the hard conversations, you show others that you’re ready to embrace them with open arms if they ultimately make the decision to get vaccinated.

Recognize when to stop

If you notice the conversation moving into an argument, or they seem overwhelmed or firm in their stance, be willing to retreat gracefully. Be patient with yourself and recognize that even the best intentions may not lead to the outcomes you desire. End the conversation with respect and without judgment. Feel good that you tried and leave the door open for further conversation.


Flu & COVID Vaccine Event This Friday 10/14

Do you need an updated (bivalent) COVID-19 booster or flu shot? Perhaps you’re ready for your first COVID-19 dose. Join us this Friday, October 14th, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Four Rivers Cultural Center (676 SW 5th Ave, Ontario) for this free, walk-in, flu and COVID vaccine event. Bring your vaccine card and insurance card if you have it. No one will be turned away, if eligible for vaccine.


Everyone who receives a flu or COVID-19 vaccine will receive a $25 gas gift card for Farmers Supply Co-Op, a food box, and a COVID-19 home test kit. Additionally, anyone who receives a COVID-19 vaccine will also receive a $25 grocery gift card for Albertsons. We will have a prize drawing, snacks, and more!

Vaccine, food boxes, test kits, and gift cards available as long as supplies last. Please share the flyers in English and Spanish and the following details:

COVID-19 Vaccine

  • COVID-19 Vaccines available:
    • Pfizer-BioNTech
      • Primary doses for ages 6 months and up
      • Booster doses for ages 12 and up
    • Moderna (primary and updated boosters)
      • Primary doses for ages 6 months and up
      • Booster doses for ages 12 and up
    • Novavax
      • Primary doses for ages 12 and up
    • Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen (J&J)
      • Primary doses for ages 18 and up
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine after you recover from COVID-19 infection provides added protection against COVID-19. Especially because the updated COVID-19 boosters target Omicron subvariants that are responsible for 98% of cases recently, you are best protected with an updated vaccine booster, even if you had COVID-19 and a previous booster.
  • CDC recommends everyone ages 12 years and older get an updated COVID-19 booster to help restore protection that has decreased since your last vaccine.
  • People who are moderately or severely immunocompromised have different recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines. You can self-attest to having a weakened immune system, which means you do not need any documentation of your status in order to receive COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Use CDC’s COVID-19 booster tool to learn if and when you can get boosters to stay up to date with your COVID-19 vaccines.

Seasonal Influenza (Flu) Vaccine

  • Flu vaccines (often called “flu shots”) are vaccines that protect against the four influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season.
  • There are many flu vaccine options to choose from, but the most important thing is for all people 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine every year. We will have standard flu shots for ages 6 months through age 64 and high-dose flu shots for people aged 65 and over.
  • While some people who get a flu vaccine may still get sick with influenza, flu vaccination has been shown in several studies to reduce severity of illness. The same is true for COVID-19 vaccination. Receiving the vaccine doesn’t guarantee you won’t be infected, but has been shown to greatly reduce the risk of severe disease.
  • Flu vaccination is an important preventive tool for people with certain chronic health conditions, including people with heart disease, chronic lunch disease, and diabetes.
  • Flu vaccine can be lifesaving in children.
  • Getting vaccinated yourself may also protect people around you, including those who are more vulnerable to serious flu illness, like babies and young children, older people, and people with certain chronic health conditions.