NEW YORK – SERMO, a health care provider polling company and leading global social media network exclusively for doctors, reported that 55 percent of 1,952 doctors believe the Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, vaccine should be mandated by states to boost vaccination rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that preteen boys and girls receive the HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 so they are protected because it protects against a very common virus that leads to almost all cases of cervical cancer and many different types of cancers in males. Only 60 percent of girls and 42 percent of boys ages 13-17 had received at least one dose of the three-dose vaccination in 2014, according to the CDC.
In Rhode Island, the state Department of Health promulgates school immunization regulations; updated in July of 2014, they now require the three-dose HPV vaccine series. Two forms of exemptions from school immunizations are permitted in Rhode Island – medical and religious, Joseph Wendelken, acting public information officer for the Rhode Island Department of Health, said in an email. While doctors provide medical exemptions, religious exemptions are available to anyone and are taken at face value; parents are neither required to identify their faith nor have a religious leader sign the exemption.
The series is phased in, said Wendelken, such that seventh-graders got their first doses in fall 2015; as eighth-graders, they will get their second doses in fall 2016, and as ninth-graders, they will get their final doses in fall 2017.
Wendelken reported that 72.5 percent of seventh-graders attending any Rhode Island school had received a first dose of the HPV vaccine by the first day of this 2015-16 school year.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 25 states and territories have enacted legislation to require the vaccine, fund or educate the public or school children about the HPV vaccine since 2006, and three states, including Rhode Island, require students be vaccinated in order to attend school.
The SERMO survey indicated that 55 percent of 1,952 doctors believe HPV vaccinations should be mandated by states, and 92 percent of 1,548 doctors would vaccinate their own children.
The issue of state-mandated HPV vaccine sparked debate on SERMO with doctors.
One obstetrician/gynecologist said, “Government needs to stay out of this. … It is not a public health concern in the same way as other infectious diseases. This … medical decision … should be between parents and child and physician, who is in the best position to discuss pros/cons of vaccine vs. HPV risks.”
Dr. James Wilson, a pediatrician and infectious disease forecaster at the University of Nevada Reno, responded, “There is currently a substantial surge in STD transmission … a proxy for HIV and HPV exposure. I'm shocked to see an [obstetrician/gynecologist] assert, ‘It is not a public health concern … as other infectious diseases.’ Cervical cancer is potentially lethal and can cost a woman her ability to bear children. I advocate mandatory vaccination for all school children.”
This SERMO poll was conducted via email to a random selection of SERMO members in the United States. Participation was voluntary; results were kept anonymous. The margin of error is ±2.5 percent and is calculated at the standard 95 percent confidence level.