Over 40,000 Americans are diagnosed as having HPV-associated cancer each year, including oropharyngeal cancer for men and cervical cancer for women. These diseases cause significant morbidity and mortality and are largely preventable if people are vaccinated against HPV before they are exposed to the virus. Unfortunately, despite strong evidence of safety and effectiveness of the HPV vaccine, vaccination rates have been disappointingly low – much lower than for the varicella, measles, mumps, rubella, and hepatitis B. The disparity in vaccination rates stem mainly from the fact that HPV vaccination is not universally required for school entry, while the other childhood vaccines are required.
In this Viewpoint, we argue that now is the time to mandate HPV vaccination for school entry, and we provide several reasons to support our call to action. First, HPV vaccination is in children’s best interests. Second, while parents should be afforded considerable autonomy in raising their children, law and ethics do not support parents making health-related decisions that are contrary to their child’s best interests. Third, HPV vaccination is a form of social solidarity, and ought to protect ourselves and our neighbors from preventable disease and death. Finally, mandating vaccination will bring greater health equity, since racial minorities and those without health insurance suffer disproportionately from cervical cancer and other HPV-associated diseases. We believe the time for action is long overdue and call on state legislatures to enact HPV vaccination mandates linked to school entry, like with other childhood vaccines.
Scholarly Commons Citation
Bayefsky, Michelle J. and Gostin, Lawrence O., "Requiring Human Papilloma Virus Vaccination for School Entry" (2018). Georgetown Law Faculty Publications and Other Works. 2117.