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Allegheny County To Hold Public Hearing On Potential HPV Vaccine Mandate

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The Allegheny County Health Department will hold a public hearing Wednesday evening regarding a potential HPV vaccine mandate for pre-teens.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the country. About 79 million people are currently infection with HPV, with around 14 million new infections each year. While most types of HPV are not harmful to people, some can cause cervical, head and neck cancers.

“This vaccination, which is quite well-researched and has been around for quite a bit of time, is the only vaccination we have to prevent cancer,” said department director Karen Hacker.

The department doesn’t currently have hard numbers on how many young people in the county are currently receiving the three-shot vaccination, but Hacker said it is below 50 percent. The department will begin collecting data on vaccination rates from school nurses during the upcoming school year.

According to a presentation made to the board of health by the Jewish Healthcare Foundation at the board’s most recent meeting in May, HPV vaccination mandates implemented in other parts of the country have had mixed results.

Philadelphia, which has a registry to track vaccination rates but no mandate, has the highest rate of full HPV vaccination in the country. In Virginia, rates of vaccination actually decreased after the mandate was instituted.

Hacker said some parents are uncomfortable with the idea of getting their pre-teen children vaccinated for a sexually transmitted infection.

“I think there are often people who feel like ‘Why should I get my child vaccinated before they have sex? What’s the real risk?’” she said. “I think there have been concerns about the efficacy of vaccinations in general.”

Hacker said the department will bring the results of the public hearing to the board of health at their next meeting in July, which may instruct the department to develop an HPV vaccination policy upon which they could vote.

The public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, July 22 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in the Gold Room of the Allegheny County courthouse.

The Jewish Healthcare Foundation is also a financial supporter of 90.5 WESA.