As children head back to school, pediatricians stress it's not just the younger kids who need vaccinations. A pretty familiar face around Pittsburgh advocates about the importance of these vaccines for older children.
"So by talking about cancer, I can actually get folks to get the vaccines," said radio host Marty Griffin.
On TV and Radio, Marty Griffin is a tough, stand up to anyone, and anything, type of guy. But he recently stood face to face with throat cancer. He went through brutal chemotherapy and radiation.
"It jacked me up — big time. Big time," said Griffin. "And I'm telling you, it's hell. It's a living hell."
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Griffin survived, but to his surprise, his doctors told him the cancer was caused by HPV, the human papilloma virus," transmitted through casual sexual contact. HPV causes 33,000 cases of cancer every year--and nearly 80 million Americans carry it in their bodies.
Pediatrician Jennifer Romero works at Pediatric Alliance Fox Chapel. Romero said many people don't realize they are even a carrier of HPV.
>>RELATED: The CDC explains what HPV is.
"It is dangerous in the sense that it's linked to developing many kinds of cancers," said Romero. "It's very novel in the sense that we have a vaccine that really can prevent cancer; most of our vaccines are preventing a specific infection."
The vaccine is typically children between the ages of 9 and 12. Griffin said parents need to overcome the vaccine stigma.
>>RELATED: The CDC explains HPV Vaccines
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"You hear HPV, well my kid, my son, my daughter, isn't sexually active (at 12) who said they were?" said Griffin. "And that's the stigma. So you have to overcome that and say it has nothing to do with having sex right now. This (the vaccine) saves their lives down the road! It saves lives, man. They'll avoid going through this hell."
Advocating for the vaccine is now a passion of Griffin's.
"Now the audience might think that's hyperbole, but it's not, man. Literally, if you can get your kid vaccinated with this vaccine--you can save their lives," said Griffin. "Why can't I reach these families and kids--that's why I did it."
The CDC recommends boys and girls get the HPV vaccine around 11 or 12 years old. That's also the same time the state mandates children get the meningitis vaccine.
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