As public schools across the Commonwealth are beginning to prepare for next school year, many are alerting parents about the so-called “required” human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine for girls entering the 6th grade.
But saying there is an HPV vaccine requirement is misleading because the General Assembly included a parental opt-out when it passed the controversial law in 2007. You may remember the debate when the powerful pharmaceutical company Merck, pushing its drug Gardasil, spent millions of dollars in marketing the drug nationally trying to convince state legislatures to require its vaccine. Only two states (and Washington, DC) fell for the pitch – Virginia and Rhode Island. But questions about the safety of the drug and the fact that HPV, as then Governor Tim Kaine said, “is not communicable in a school setting,” led lawmakers to give parents the option of not subjecting their rising 6th-grade girls to the series of shots.
Unfortunately, some schools are apparently not being forthright with that detail.
Consider, for example, a flyer being distributed by the Chesterfield County Public Schools that states, “The HPV vaccine is required for all girls entering sixth grade,” with no mention of the parental opt-out.
If you have a rising sixth-grade girl and your school is pushing you to vaccinate for HPV and you do not want to, it’s your choice. You can click here to see the law (print it out and bring it to the school if you have to!).
Regardless of whether you think the vaccine is necessary or not, it’s important that you as a parent at least know you have a choice in the matter and that you be able to exercise your authority to make decisions in the best interest of your children.
If you don’t think it’s a good idea for your child, it’s totally up to you – no explanations needed. That’s the bottom line.