Florida bill would make it mandatory for children to get HPV vaccine

Florida bill would make it mandatory for children to get HPV vaccine

Vaccination for HPV, or human papillomavirus, could become mandatory for pre-teen students in Florida.

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Most people get it at some time in their lives, and many never know they have it. A few HPV strains are linked to cancer, particularly cervical cancer in women.

Dr. Julie DeCesare is an OB/GYN at Sacred Heart Medical Group. She watched a friend die of cervical cancer at age 25, and the loss affected her deeply.

She said, "Four thousand women a year die from HPV-associated cancers, 4,000 women. I'm a passionate advocate for mandating vaccinations."

She said HPV vaccines like Gardasil 9 prevent not just cervical cancer in women, but an increasing number of head, neck and throat cancers in men that are now linked to the virus.

She continued, "The only way to prevent the virus, or the disease, the cancer is vaccinations. I have three children, two girls and a boy, all of my children are vaccinated."

The CDC recommends HPV vaccines for both boys and girls aged 11 and12. Bills in the Florida House and Senate would make those vaccinations mandatory in order to attend public school.

Josh Mazer is a parent who fought a similar measure in Maryland, which was defeated. He said, "The key question is, does the vaccine injure or harm more people than it saves, and I think the jury's still out on that."

Mazer stresses he is a strong believer in vaccines. But he's troubled over more than 55,000 problems reported to a government database called "VAERS", or Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.

The CDC said 92 percent of those reports were non-serious. Mazer questions that, citing some of the numbers he found: "Two thousand two hundred twenty-seven disabled, 1,400 did not recover, 7,400 serious, and 362 deaths, so we think that the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System has captured some data that maybe we should look at more closely before we go into a big approval."

Advocates of the vaccine said those numbers are unreliable because they're reported by individuals and it's impossible to prove a cause and effect relationship.

The most common side effects of the vaccine are fainting, dizziness, and nausea. Both Mazer and Dr. DeCesare want children to be healthy and agree a parent's first conversation should be with the family doctor.

The proposed legislation in Florida will have to pass several committee votes to move forward.

More information from the CDC on HPV vaccines and safety can be found here.

To search for data on the Vaccine Adverse Incident Reporting System, click here.

Josh Mazer has written two opinion columns that go more in-depth on some of the concerns about the vaccine, read them here and here.

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