LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - When the Angelina County and Cities Health District opened the Preventive Health Center two years ago, they began to notice a startling trend.
"We noticed a dramatic number of cervical cancers and we had gentlemen come through who had throat and tongue cancer all related back to the HPV virus," said Health District Administrator Sharon Shaw. "We were alarmed."
The Health District partnered with the Children's Clinic of Lufkin, Angelina Pediatrics and the American Cancer Society to form the HPV Education Task Force.
"It was time to do something as a community, just really get boots on the ground and talk to people in Angelina County," Shaw said.
Their goal is to educate the public on the HPV vaccination.
"The HPV vaccine is very cool because it is the first vaccine that can prevent cancer," said Lufkin pediatrician Dr. Jeffrey Glass. "If everyone gets vaccinated, then HPV and cervical cancer will be something like polio, where 20 years from now, it could be something that we don't even see anymore.
The vaccination isn't just for girls, boys can carry the virus as well and spread it just as easily.
Pediatricians suggest parents get their children vaccinated sooner rather than later.
"The studies show that if you give the vaccine in between 10 and 15 years of age, the body develops the best immunity to it," Glass said. "Plus it's a series of three shots, you have to get the shot and then two boosters, so we want to make sure the kids get the vaccine while they're at home and under their parents care."
Doctors said it's best to get the vaccine before they reach the age several kids become sexually active, in their late teens and early twenties.
"Parents are concerned that this vaccine is for mature behavior, but it's not," Shaw said. "This vaccine makes them immune to certain types of cancer that are spread by skin to skin contact."
The Task Force said they hope by spreading this information, they can better the health of their community.
"We want to beat the national average of 40 percent vaccination," Shaw said. "We want to have Angelina County stand out and be recognized as a community that cares about its young people."
Anyone interested in having the Task Force speak at their church, school or club can call the Health District at 936-632-1139 or the Children's Clinic of Lufkin at (936) 634-2214. For more information on the vaccination, The Health district asks to visit their website at http://www.acchd.us/#