March 2, 2007

Voluntary HPV Vaccination Programs Can Work With 'Informed And Sensitive Health Education', Opinion Piece Says

There is "no reason" why a voluntary human papillomavirus vaccination program that is "based on an informed and sensitive health education campaign ... would not work," Washington Post columnist Courtland Milloy writes in an opinion piece. According to Milloy, New Hampshire, which recently implemented a voluntary program that aims to provide Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil to girls and women ages 11 to 18, "encourages residents to take more responsibility for their lives." The New Hampshire government acts as a "partner, instead of some antebellum massa," and "parents are encouraged to make choices that are in the best interest of their children," Milloy writes, adding that "as a result, the state has one of the highest rates of child immunization in the nation." Supporters of legislation in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia that would mandate HPV vaccination for girls to enter school are "quick to note" that parents can choose to "opt out" of the program but "few can say exactly how many bureaucratic hoops a parent will have to jump through to do that," Milloy writes, asking, "[W]hy should the onus be on the parents to figure out how not to be in a government-mandated program?" He adds that residents of New Hampshire are not "smarter and better able to develop effective public health programs" than residents of other states, but they "have ... the right attitude" (Milloy, Washington Post, 1/24).

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