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Where does Michigan fall in the HPV vaccine debate?

With the HPV vaccine making headlines during the recent Republican presidential debates, an obvious question arose: What is Michigan’s policy about the vaccination?

To answer that Michigan Messenger emailed Angela Minicuci, spokesperson for the Michigan Department of Community Health.

When it comes to the HPV vaccine, school and child care immunization requirements are effective public health tools for increasing immunization coverage in children, preventing vaccine-preventable disease, and preventing transmission of disease in school and child care settings. However, state immunization programs believe that there must be an adequate vaccine implementation period and adequate coverage levels before introducing a state requirement.

In Michigan, we have strived to have both healthcare provider and public acceptance of the vaccine before it is introduced as a school requirement. We have about half of all girls and their families that accept the vaccine but only about a quarter that actually complete it. We are working to increase those numbers as well as promote that all healthcare providers offer the vaccine in any primary care setting to all eligible patients.

The vaccine has been shown to prevent infection with several strains of human papillomavirus which have been linked to vaginal, anal, penile and throat cancers. The viruses are all sexually transmitted. The vaccine became a political hot potato when Republican presidential candidates attacked Texas Gov. Rick Perry for his attempt to mandate HPV vaccination for school girls 12 years old and older. That move failed when the Texas legislature passed a law prohibiting Perry’s executive order.

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann came out of last week’s debate taking heat for proposing the vaccine was linked to mental retardation. On Monday, she tried to walk those comments back, the Washington Post reports.

While the vaccine is now approved for females, it can also be taken by males. Minicuci says that when the feds make it something for both genders, the state will likely take the next step in pushing for mandatory vaccination.

“Discussion will be taking place soon at the national level regarding this recommendation and if all males are recommended to have the vaccine at 11-12 years of age, it will make it easier to eventually implement HPV as a school requirement,” she said.

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