When parents won’t consent to the HPV vaccine, some states are trying to make it easier for teens to protect themselves
In the wake of a growing anti-vaccine movement, some states are trying to find new ways to keep teens safe, particularly when it comes making sure they get the HPV shot.
The HPV vaccine is important in helping prevent cervical cancer. It could even eliminate it altogether, but many teens aren’t getting it.
About 79 million Americans have the human papillomavirus. Most of those individuals are in their late teens and early 20s. And according to the CDC, each year, 33,700 new cancers are linked to the diagnosis in the United States. While it is largely preventable, about 4,000 women in the U.S. die each year from cervical cancer.
That number is clearly way too high and doctors routinely urge parents to get their kids vaccinated because of it. Still, anti-vaxers, worried about potential harmful effects of the shot, aren’t convinced. So, many teens remain unvaccinated as a result.
The CDC recommends the shot for children between 9 and 12. Since HPV is sexually transmitted, the vaccine is most effective before kids are exposed to the viruses– before they become sexually active. However, if parents aren’t convinced, though, there hasn’t been much teens who actually want to get the shot can do. Now, legislatures are trying to change that, so that they can get their shots without with “okay” from their parents.
Their bodies do belong to them, after all.
In New York this year, lawmakers tried to pass bills allowing teens to consent on their own to two shots that prevent sexually transmitted diseases–HPV and Hepatitis B shots. Similar bills have been proposed in New York every year since 2009 without any luck. One reason for that is that the senate was under republican control until last year, and those efforts were routinely blocked.
Some see this as an urgent issue, though, but one that will have trouble getting passed. “Anything related to children having sex tends to be a detriment for legislation,” said Amy Paulin, a Democrat who put forth the Assembly version of this bill. So, in 2017, the New York state Department of Health got tired of waiting and changed regulations to allow all teens in New York to get the HPV shot on their own.
Each state has some legal exceptions that will allow minors to get diagnosed and treated for sexually transmitted diseases. Under 18 teens living in New York, California, Delaware and Washington, D.C., are allowed to be vaccinated for HPV and hepatitis B, as well. With the recent spread of measles in New Jersey, a bill was introduced allowing teens to make their own choices to get shots against a number of diseases, including HPV, on their own, too. It’s definitely a positive trend with a lot of room for improvement.
Contrary to the all-too-popular belief that the vaccine is harmful, Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC says, “over 10 years of monitoring and research have shown that HPV vaccination is very safe” and that it “provides safe, effective and long-lasting protection against cancers caused by HPV.”
Regardless of what doctors and experts have been telling us, only about 43 percent of teens in the U.S. have received appropriate doses of the HPV vaccine and it’s cause for concern. And, the way these states see it, time for action that goes above their parent’s heads in order to protect all children.
One thing remains clear- kids should have rights to their own bodies, especially when it comes to protecting themselves from illnesses that are largely preventable. If their parents won’t vaccinate them, making sure they have the right to do so on their own will be of the utmost importance moving on.
The vaccine debate may not be going away anytime soon, but hopefully, teens will be able to, at the very least, make choices that could potentially save their lives.
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