By Kim Polacek, APR, CPRC - January 24, 2018
A bill has been introduced in the Florida Legislature that would require public school students to be vaccinated for human papillomavirus, or HPV.
HPV is linked to multiple cancers, including cervical cancer.
Florida students are already required to be vaccinated for diseases like tetanus, polio and mumps. Senate Bill 1558, also known as the "Women's Cancer Prevention Act," would also require boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 12 receive the HPV vaccine.
"I think it is positive and the reason I think it’s positive is that we are poised to literally eliminate HPV-related cancers, starting with cervical cancer,” Dr. Anna Giuliano, founding director of the Center for Immunization and Infection Research in Cancer at Moffitt Cancer Center said. "We have the tools to do it, but unless we utilize the tools we aren’t going to see that happen. One of the more important tools is the HPV vaccination and that doesn’t mean a few kids here and there, it means instituting the vaccine the way we do to eliminate polio, which we have done."
According to Moffitt and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 79 million Americans are infected with HPV and 40,000 cases of HPV-associated cancers are diagnosed annually in the United States.
The HPV vaccine first became available in 2006 and is recommended for young women ages 9 to 26 and young men ages 9 to 21.
"The end of cervical cancer is in sight - a cancer that you will no longer ever see in the United States if we screen and if we vaccinate," Giuliano said. "It’s amazing. What I keep telling everybody is if there was a vaccine to prevent colorectal cancer or breast cancer, would you take it?"
Currently, Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia require HPV vaccines for school attendance.
The bill also includes procedures for exempting children from receiving the vaccination.