A proposed controversial mandate to require students in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to be injected with all three doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine by seventh grade was rejected by the Allegheny County Board of Health on July 13, 2016.1
The Allegheny County Health Department introduced the idea of the mandate at a public forum in Pittsburgh on June 22. That meeting was aimed at “exploring whether to expand the adolescent vaccine mandate to include” the HPV vaccine for all 11- and 12-year old children, as recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).2 3
Ultimately, the Board of Health determined that mandating the HPV vaccine would interfere with parental rights. According to an article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, the Health Department’s Deputy Director of Public Policy and Community Relations Abby Wilson said:
No. 1 concern was that vaccinating a child should be a parental choice and mandating vaccine is an overreach of the government. Parents would have been able to opt-out their children.4
Jessica Fitzgerald, a parent who spoke at the Board meeting, said, “Parents have the right to make health care choices for their children. Parents and parents alone.”4 She added, “When there are risks, there has to be consent. Period. I believe that the [idea of a mandate] will keep coming but we will keep fighting.”1
Indeed, the decision by the Board does not preclude it from revisiting the issue at another time. According to an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Board chairman Lee Harrison said the motions did not exclude board action from future discussion, including the possibility of a mandate.”1
There are two HPV vaccines that have been approved for use in the United States by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These include the Gardasil and Cervarix vaccines. The former “contains high risk HPV types 16 and 18 associated with genital cancers and low risk HPV types 6 and 11 associated with genital warts was licensed in 2006 and is approved for use by females and males ages nine to 26 years.” The latter “contains HPV types 16 and 18 was licensed in 2009 and is approved for use in females nine to 25 years.”6
1 Rosenblatt L. Allegheny County Board of Health rejects mandating HPV vaccine. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette July 13, 2016.
2 Allegheny County Health Department. Adolescent Vaccine Public Forum. ACHD.net
3 Rosenblatt L. Allegheny County considers mandate for HPV vaccine for students. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette June 22, 2016.
4 Allegheny County Board of Health won’t pursue HPV vaccine mandate. Pittsburgh Tribune-Review July 13, 2016.
6 National Vaccine Information Center. Human Papillomavirus (HPV). NVIC.org.