EDITORIAL

A choice that must be carefully considered

Posted

Finding a balance between public health concerns and respect for civil liberties can be an immensely challenging task, both politically and practically.

The latest example of this dynamic is being seen in Rhode Island through the recent outcry over the Department of Health’s (HEALTH) new requirement that seventh-graders begin receiving vaccinations against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

The state joins Virginia and the District of Columbia as the only places where the vaccine is presently mandated. The vaccine was first approved on the federal level in 2006.

Using social media, opponents of the mandate have rallied hundreds to their cause. Their reasons are varied. Some question the science behind the vaccine: the findings that it prevents oral, cervical and anal cancers caused by some strains of HPV, and that it is safe with no known side effects. Some also take issue with children so young being vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease.

The statistics associated with HPV can be staggering. The virus can vary significantly in terms severity, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly half of infections are high-risk and can cause the cancers listed above. The remaining infections are deemed low-risk, associated with genital and skin warts.

So common is HPV, according to the CDC, that between 80 and 90 percent of sexually active men and women will be infected at some point in their lives. Each year, there are approximately 14 million new infections.

Amid the recent controversy, the CDC has announced Rhode Island already ranks highest in the nation in terms of HPV vaccination for youths.

“There is still quite a range in HPV vaccine coverage across the country,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC immunization center, reportedly said during a news conference. “Rhode Island achieved the highest rate for first-dose HPV coverage among girls with 76 percent, while Kansas had the lowest rate at 38.3 percent.”

At present, those objecting to the mandated vaccine have a clear-cut means through which to opt out: by invoking a religious exemption for which there is absolutely no follow-up on the part of health officials or anyone else. There is also a provision for a medical exemption, although that requires a physician’s approval. State Sen. Joshua Miller had planned to pursue legislation eliminating the religious exemption, but has now decided against doing so.

Of course, civil liberties and personal choice must be considered and respected, and both the American Civil Liberties Union and the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity have voiced opposition to the mandate. We agree there should be a choice.

However, given the state’s high rate of HPV vaccination and the deadly forms of cancer to which the virus is linked, we agree with health officials that vaccination is in the best interest of public health. We would urge all parents and guardians to closely consider their decision regarding the vaccination.

HEALTH has scheduled several informational forums in the coming weeks, starting with a 6:30 p.m. gathering at the Barrington Library on Wednesday and a Thursday forum at the same time at the HEALTH offices at 3 Capitol Hill in Providence. Forums will also be held on Aug. 11 at the Peace Dale Library, Aug. 12 at the East Greenwich Police Department, and Aug. 17 at the Cumberland Public Library. All the gatherings begin at 6:30 p.m.

Comments

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davebarry109

Dear Editor:

Why are you putting civil liberties and person choice in a back seat to the vaccine. Person choice and civil liberty should be the first consideration before a mandated vaccine or mandated anything. Before government mandates that a citizen do x, y or z, freedom and liberty should take center stage. The government should only interfere with citizens when absolutely necessary. That is what America was fou nded upon. The individual and his liberty is sacrosanct. For a group of doctors to force something upon us because someone may have sex in the future and may contract cancer is extreme. And a citizen should not have to claim a religious preference to stop it. Note that a representative is already trying to stop religious exemptions.

Thursday, August 6, 2015
LindaMc11

High rate is because many people were not told that they had an option. What is the rate for the second and third dose I wonder after side effects from the first?

Proof ( no long term effects for cancer protection or on how it has effected people) that it has stopped anyone crom getting cancer?

Thursday, August 6, 2015
LindaMc11

High rate is because many people were not told that they had an option. What is the rate for the second and third dose I wonder after side effects from the first?

Proof ( no long term effects for cancer protection or on how it has effected people) that it has stopped anyone from getting cancer?

Thursday, August 6, 2015
Tmommy

Can you please tell me where the statement "roughly 1/2 of the cases of HPV are high risk. I have not read this in any information. I have done my share of reading on this topic and have never read that information. I have read 90% of cases of the HPV virus the body will recover on it's own. Can you share that source with us please. If I am misinformed. I am not anti vaccination. I want to be sure I help my child make a well informed choice as a family. This is crossing an ethical line to state that this is mandatory to attend a public school. This is very personal and these children are very young.

Thank you

Tmommy

Thursday, August 6, 2015
realmomma

The RI DOH is doing its best to make sure parents feel pressured. They are using the "C" word liberally. There is no long term evidence that this vaccine will prevent cervical cancer and, all cervical cancers are not cause by the HPV virus. They downplay or outright lie about the adverse reactions. The RI DOH is poised to mandate any vaccine the CDC recommends. With over 200 new vaccines in the research and development pipeline, that could mean more for children and adults. Yes, adults! So far they are mandating flu for healthcare and childcare employees. Teachers are next, I am quite sure. We have to take the burden upon ourselves to research each medical treatment, vaccine or medication and decide if it is right for us or our children. We have to protect our rights to say No! Email your State and Federal Representative and express that you want to protect your right to informed consent! There is a Bill in Congress called the Vaccinate all Children Act of 2015 which would mandate all elementary and secondary school aged children be vaccinated according to the CDC recommended schedule. The bill would eliminate the religious or personal belief exemption and only a doctor issued medical exemption would be allowed.

Thursday, August 6, 2015