In the summer, it was announced that authorities in Scotland were considering vaccinating girls as young as 9 years old against the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus in order to combat the cervical cancer that can result from infection, but complaints from parents have stopped the plan in its tracks.
After parents complained the inoculations were inappropriate for such young girls, the government abandoned its proposal, but there are still plans to vaccinate 12-year-old girls against the disease, which is drawing continued fire from parents and advocacy groups. Some opponents say immunizing girls against HPV might encourage them to start having sex at a younger age.
HPV can cause genital warts and is thought to be the root cause of around 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. In Scotland alone, more than 500 women are diagnosed with the virus annually, and about 100 of them die.
Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation documents stated that the option of vaccinating children against HPV had been explored for more than a year, when the European Commission obtained samples of Gardasil, the first HPV vaccine, for girls between the ages of 9 and 26. Also, as evidence suggests boys can sexually transmit HPV, there were plans to vaccinate them against the virus as well, but those too were blocked.
A similar proposal met with protest in Michigan. A law requiring the HPV vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade in the fall of this year was proposed by a bipartisan group of female legislators, led by Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Mich. The bill was unanimously voted through the Senate, and originally passed the House, but a second vote was called for and ended with the bill being killed.
A clinical trial in Scotland observed 300 women aged 16 to 23 and found that Gardasil was highly effective against HPV, but worked best if the shot was given prior to women becoming sexually active. Experts have said they will not allow a new vaccination program to be implemented unless school nurses are put given the authority to begin revised sex-education programs. Their final recommendation is expected within the next few weeks.
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