HPV vaccine mandate has broad exemptions

Rhode Island’s health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said she's sincere about wanting every seventh grader to get the HPV vaccine, but not to the point that it will keep them out of school.

Rhode Island students can go back to school, even without one controversial mandated vaccine.{}

The state's health director, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott said she's sincere about wanting every seventh grader to get the HPV vaccine, but not to the point that it will keep them out of school.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the human papilloma virus infects 14 million people a year in the United States.

"We have the school requirements that are there for the vaccination," said Scott. "We have that exemption process that's in place to support the parents."

There has been a lot of opposition to the vaccination, in part, because HPV is transmitted solely through sexual contact.{}

But the vaccine is given years before expected exposure.{} Scott said the exemptions based on religious or medical reasons are not the only way for parents to opt out.

Yet, students who aren't vaccinated - for whatever reason - won't be denied the chance to sit down in class.

"We want students to get educated," said Scott.

That causes Mike Stenhouse of the Center for Freedom and Prosperity to shake his head.

"I mean, if there's not going to be any enforcement - if they're encouraging people to opt out, then why have the mandate on the books in the first place?" Stenhouse said.{} "Let's get it off the books now. Let's save the legislature going through all that work next year." {}

He's talking about a move to take the mandate away.{}

Scott said even without the mandate, the Health Department will continue to promote the vaccine, which she believes will help prevent cancer.

"We want everyone to get vaccinated," she said. "But if there are parents that have strong convictions against it because they want to learn more about the HPV vaccine, we'll work with them for the exemption process."

She went on to note that more than 70 percent of seventh grade girls have already been vaccinated.{} More complete figures won't be available from school departments until October or November.

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