PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Despite a challenge from opponents earlier this year, it’s mandatory in the state of Rhode Island for all incoming seventh grade students to receive the HPV vaccine.
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Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. It’s so common that nearly all sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.
In Rhode Island, the vaccine is required for both boys and girls entering seventh grade. Virginia is the only other state that requires school children to get the vaccine that blocks common strains of HPV, which can lead to various cancers later in life, according to Dr. Ailis Clyne, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health’s Immunization Program.
“Incoming seventh graders need to have had one dose of the HPV vaccine this year, incoming eighth graders need to have had two doses of the HPV vaccine,” Dr. Clyne explained. “This phasing in approach is something that we’ve used in the past when vaccines require more than one dose.”
Washington, D.C. also requires the vaccinations.
According to the department of health, about 74 percent of seventh graders had received the vaccine during the last school year when data was collected in November. It’s possible more may have received it in the months following.
Not all Rhode Island parents are in favor of the mandate, citing various concerns, both personal and religious in nature. Dr. Clyne said it’s also important to note there are exemptions.
“There’s medical exemption, it’s a form that is completed by a health care provider,” she added. “And there’s a religious exemption, which is a form that can be completed by a parent.”
The state has not enforced the new mandate for families who opt out of having the vaccine. Schools have also been advised not to ask questions, even if parents don’t utilize the formal exemptions.
For parents who want the vaccine for their children but did not get it administered by the start of the school year, Dr. Cylne suggests getting in contact with the school nurse.
The state also offers a “Vaccinate Before You Graduate” program for students who need to get caught up on their vaccinations. Visit the Rhode Island Department of Health’s website for all the necessary forms.