Buy Photo

Henry A. Barrios / The Californian

Nathalie Martinez, center, chose to have her daughters, Jordin, left, and Nathalie, right, vaccinated for HPV after she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. They attended a ceremonial check passing Wednesday morning by KERO and Scripps to San Joaquin Community Hospital for $15,000 for a vaccine program to provide free HPV vaccines.

A donation from a local television news station will allow San Joaquin Community Hospital's Children's Mobile Immunization Program to offer free vaccinations against the human papillomavirus (HPV) to about 40 underinsured youth.

The clinic already offers the vaccination, but can only give it to adolescents who have no insurance, said Kira Wiggins, director of The Wellness Center at the hospital. At about $370 per a series of three shots, the $15,000 grant from KERO Channel 23, Azteca Bakersfield and the Scripps Howard Foundation will cover the vaccinations for a few dozen youth.

The vaccines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for children ages 9 to 18 beginning Saturday, when the mobile unit will visit a health fair at St. John Missionary Baptist Church, 1300 E. Brundage Lane, from 9 a.m. to noon, Wiggins said. The vaccine is available for both girls and boys.

HPV accounts for the lion's share -- about 79 million -- of an estimated 110 million sexually transmitted infections nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

A study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute in January found increased incidence rates of some HPV-associated cancers from 2000 to 2009.

"Increases in incidence rates for some HPV-associated cancers and low vaccination coverage among adolescents underscore the need for additional prevention efforts for HPV-associated cancers, including efforts to increase vaccination coverage," the study concluded.

Natalie Martinez, 44, of Bakersfield, said she made certain her older daughters got the vaccination after she had cervical cancer about five years ago.

"They didn't have a choice. They had to go get the shot considering the scare I had," she said.

Jordin Martinez, 17, and Nathalie Martinez, 25, said others should consider getting the shot as well.

"Get it, just to be safe. You never know," Nathalie said.

The Kern County Public Health Services Department also offers the HPV vaccine at 1800 Mount Vernon Ave. from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. The department takes a variety of payments, including Medi-Cal, cash and private insurance. Individuals can call 321-3000 to find what the cost is based on their circumstances, Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah wrote in an email.