NY Pols Propose Mandating HPV Vaccine For Students, Sparking Debate

Flu shots can help curb the virus. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Areca T. Wilson/Released)

A proposal in the New York State Legislature that would require elementary school students receive the HPV vaccine is proving controversial among parents who are trying to stop the bill from passing.

State lawmakers say they’re just trying to keep children from contracting the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus that can cause genital warts and cancer. But opponents of the legislation are concerned with side effects of the vaccine and are a second bill that would allow schools to immunize children without parental consent.

“These bills trample on parental rights and medical freedom and the government has no place in making medical decisions for our families,” Jessica Rudin, a parent from East Setauket, wrote in an online petition opposing the bill that has gotten nearly 90,000 signatures as of Dec. 4.

Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia are currently the only jurisdictions nationwide that require the HPV vaccine to attend school, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. At least eight other state legislatures are considering such proposals.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends children ages 11 and 12 receive Gardasil 9, which is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States. The American Cancer Society (ACS) agrees, noting that more than 33,000 men and women are diagnosed annually with cancers caused by HPV.

“HPV vaccination offers the very rare opportunity to help prevent not just one but six types of cancer,” said Debbie Saslow, PhD., managing director of HPV and GYN Cancers for the ACS. “Just two doses of this vaccine, given to kids at age 11 or 12, and starting as early as nine, can prevent 90 percent of HPV cancers.”

The debate comes after the state removed the religious exemption for students to attend school, a measure that also proved controversial. The HPV bill would require students born after Jan. 1, 2009 receive the vaccination before entering the seventh grade. The legislation, proposed in January, is pending in the health committees of the state Assembly and Senate. 

“Why not give our young people the opportunity to guard against, protect themselves against, anal and cervical cancer?” Assemblywoman Amy Paulin (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring the bill, told WCBS New York. “To me it’s a no-brainer. I don’t understand why we would leave this one out.”