Doctors encourage HPV vaccine for kids

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - The start of the new school year means many parents are making that annual trip to the doctor, and now there's a renewed push to make sure the HPV vaccine is on the list.

Channel 2’s Erin Coleman talked to a cervical cancer survivor and a doctor who say parents need to pay attention to the vaccine.

Amy Semmendinger is a newlywed, but one month after saying “I do” she was diagnosed with stage 4 cervical cancer.

“They were pretty much like 17 months if you do chemo, three to six months if you don't do chemo,” Semmendinger said about the doctor’s prognosis. “I don't think you're ever prepared emotionally for something like that.”

Dr. Lisa Flowers says HPV is the major cause of cervical cancer, which is why she’s pushing parents to get their kids vaccinated for HPV now.

Between the ages of 9 and 12 is the optimal time and the FDA recently approved a more effective Guardasil, which now protects against 80 percent of cervical cancers.

“If there was a vaccine against breast cancer we would have a line from here all the way down to California. There would no question about it. This is a necessary vaccine,” Flowers said.

But not everyone agrees. Opposition groups say Guardasil is expensive, and age 9 is too early to be talking to kids about sex, which is how HPV is transmitted.

“I tell them there's no need to go into all of the issues about sex, just talk to your child,” Flowers said. “Basically there's a virus called HPV that can cause a cancer and by getting this vaccine you're preventing that risk.”

Flowers says parents need to be proactive. Semmendinger says now that she's a survivor, all of her kids are getting the vaccine.

“Everything can change in the blink of an eye,” she said.

The vaccine is not just for girls. It protects boys from several other types of cancers as well.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than 50 percent of children in the U.S. are getting the HPV vaccine.

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