Sunday, February 4, 2007

Mandatory HPV Vaccinations for Texas Schoolgirls

Ralph Blumenthal of the New York Times writes:

HOUSTON, Feb. 2 Texas on Friday became the first state to require all 11- and 12-year-old girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.

Averting a potentially divisive debate in the Legislature, Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed an executive order mandating shots of the Merck vaccine Gardasil as protection against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, starting in September 2008.

Mr. Perrys action, praised by health advocates, caught many by surprise in a largely conservative state where sexual politics is often a battleground.

The statistics regarding the prevalence of HPV make a strong argument for the mandatory vaccinations:

HPV, affecting 20 million people nationally, including one in four 15-to-24-year-olds, is the nations most common sexually transmitted disease. Texas has the second-highest number of women with cervical cancer, with nearly 400 deaths last year, the governors statement noted.

Governor Perry was apparently unswayed by an argument also typically raised against allowing teenagers access to contraceptives and information about safer sex practices:

Some parents have voiced concern that the plan could send a message that sexual activity was condoned or that vaccinations made it safe. On the whole, however, conservative and religious groups have not come out strongly against the vaccinations as long as families can opt out.

Any thoughts as to why requiring HPV vaccinations for teenage girls has not met with opposition as fierce as that mounted against comprehensive sexuality education?  Read the New York Times story: Texas Is First to Require Cancer Shots for Schoolgirls.  Read a Washington Post story about Washington, D.C., and other jurisdictions also considering requiring HPV vaccinations:  D.C. Bill Would Mandate Vaccine.

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Do you know why only girls are going to get vaccinated? Are boys exempted for medical reasons, or for political ones?

Posted by: Ann Bartow | Feb 6, 2007 5:53:26 AM

Great question. Here's what the CDC says about vaccinating boys:

What about vaccinating boys?
We do not yet know if the vaccine is effective in boys or men. It is possible that vaccinating males will have health benefits for them by preventing genital warts and rare cancers, such as penile and anal cancer. It is also possible that vaccinating boys/men will have indirect health benefits for girls/women. Studies are now being done to find out if the vaccine works to prevent HPV infection and disease in males. When more information is available, this vaccine may be licensed and recommended for boys/men as well.

Here's a link to a CDC factsheet, "Who Should Get the HPV Vaccine":

Posted by: Caitlin Borgmann | Feb 7, 2007 12:44:37 PM

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