Subjects: Public health
It’s back-to-school time for hundreds of thousands of middle school girls, which means stocking up on Gelly-Roll pens and new clothes, and nowadays, rolling up their sleeves to get their first Gardasil shot.
The vaccine is designed to protect them from HPV, the cause of genital warts and cervical cancer.
For the first time since the FDA green-lighted the spike in 2006, many schools have begun asking girls entering sixth grade to get it.
In Virginia and the Washington DC, parents can opt out of the program. District parents need to complete a form if they wish to do so. This is not required for parents in surrounding communities.
Gardasil supporters believe it will prevent millions of cases of STD. The CDC estimates for example, that 20 million people are HPV-positive in the US, and that nearly half of sexually active people will become infected with the virus during their lives.
“Certainly in terms of preventing the most common strains of the disease that cause genital warts, this vaccine is effective,” Kathy Woodward told the Washington Post. “As opposed to being resigned that everyone will get HPV, we now have a tool that can prevent it,” added the STD specialist at Children’s National Medical Center.
Opponents of the spike believe it has not undergone enough testing and that parents have not been fully educated about its potential side effects. “They are using our girls as guinea pigs,” warned Tracy Lloyd, a member of the Parents and Citizens Committee to Stop Medical Experimentation.
Gardasil works best if vaccinations begin before girls become sexually active. The vaccine is given in 3 shots over a 6-month period and costs about $375. Most of these costs are covered by Medicaid and private insurers.