The Short of It
As Rhode Island parents are preparing their middle school kids for the 2015-16 school year, a health notice has taken them by surprise. The state is now following a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation that every seventh-grader must receive a vaccination for the Human Papillomavirus virus (HPV).
HPV is spread through sexual contact, and according to the Mayo Clinic, more than 100 types of HPV viruses can cause warts on various parts of the body, including the face, feet, neck and genitals. Some of the strains can cause cancer of the cervix, and vaccines help protect against those varieties of HPV.
The Rhode Island program will initially be phased in over three years, subjecting students in seventh, eighth and ninth grades to the vaccination. This fall, seventh-graders will get one dose of the vaccine. For fall 2016, eighth-graders will get two doses, and seventh-graders will get one dose. In 2017, seventh-graders will get one dose; eighth-graders will receive two doses; and ninth-graders will get three doses.
Parents are concerned about the mandatory vaccines, even though the school has stated that parents may opt out their children for religious or medical reasons.
"These children are very young," parent Yari Auger of Providence explained to ABC 6 News. "Extremely young to assume anything about being sexually active."
Concerned parents have started a Facebook group for those against the new regulation. The social media forum is 790 members strong and growing. They've also turned to Change.org and created a petition titled "Eliminate mandatory HPV vaccination as part of RI public or private school entry" with hopes of getting 1,000 signatures.
Robert Eden of Children's Medical Group in Providence says the vaccine is safe for children and he hasn't seen any adverse reactions in the thousands of patients who have received the vaccine.
This situation is another issue of who gets to decide what's best for our children. Sure, the CDC recommends the HPV vaccine and the school system agrees because on the surface it seems to be the best option.
I think the middle schools should send out an educational letter to parents that clearly explains the benefits and drawbacks of the vaccine and highlights that they may opt out for religious or medical reasons. But, they should take it a step further and let parents also opt out if they feel it's in the best interest of their family—with no questions asked.
How do you feel about schools mandating vaccines for students?
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