When seventh graders head back to school in Rhode Island, they will be getting HPV vaccines as mandated by the state. Not all parents, however, are liking it.
The HPV vaccine is designed to protect against the human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer. Rhode Island generally has good vaccination rates, with a law in place incorporating all vaccines recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention into regulations for school immunization, but many parents are questioning whether or not they should allow their children to be given the shot, saying 11- and 12-year-olds are not going to be out and about having sex so there should be no need to protect them this early from an STD.
Heath officials, however, counter that it is precisely that 11- and 12-year-olds are unlikely to be having sex and that they are the best candidates for the vaccine. Receiving a shot at a young age is crucial because it gives children's bodies more than enough time to develop immunity against HPV.
"Our goal is that, over time, parents will become comfortable and familiar with the benefits of this vaccine," said Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, health director for Rhode Island.
Until now, the HPV vaccine was the only shot recommended by the U.S. Government but not mandated for school attendance in Rhode Island.
As with all required vaccines, the HPV vaccine can be chosen by parents not to be given to their children by accomplishing an opt-out form. While many will likely take advantage of this, there are those who will push ahead with getting their children vaccinated against HPV despite disagreeing with the mandate.
As one parent puts it, it's not that they have anything against the vaccine because their own research has shown it to be safe and effective. However, they simply didn't like that they are being mandated by the state to get a particular vaccine.
There are many other vaccines required by Rhode Island for school children but the HPV shot is receiving particular opposition because it is associated with sexually transmitted disease, not to mention that a lot of people have a hard time realizing the vaccine's significance given that getting a shot offers protection for something that might not even happen.
Aside from Rhode Island, only Virginia and Washington, D.C. are mandating HPV vaccines. Parents in Virginia can opt out without signing a form but Washington, D.C. has a similar requirement to Rhode Island.
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