HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii students will have to meet new immunization requirements in the upcoming school year, including showing evidence of having received the HPV vaccine by the time they enter seventh grade, the state Health Department announced.
The new requirements apply to students entering childcare or preschool, kindergarten, 7th grade, and colleges/universities. The mandates are also for all students entering school in Hawaii for the first time.
And they’re aimed at bringing Hawaii immunization rules in line with CDC recommendations.
“The Department of Health is now updating our vaccine schedules to be in conformance with national recommendations. We haven’t done this in decades,” said Health Director Bruce Anderson.
“It now conforms with what most physicians are normally recommending in terms of vaccine schedules.”
Opponents of the new mandates, however, are concerned about possible adverse reactions.
They also question the safety studies done on vaccines.
“We feel like that’s just a basic human right to not ever have to be forced medicated with anything that carries potential risk,” said Kimberly Haine, a founder of the group Hawaii For Informed Consent.
Under the new requirements, all seventh graders will have to show that they’ve received:
- The Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis)
- The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine
- And the meningococcal conjugate vaccine
When they were under consideration, the new vaccine requirements got pushback from some parents who don’t believe they’re safe. There was particular concern about the HPV vaccine requirement.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection, according to the CDC.
And the virus can lead to cervical cancer and other diseases. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the HPV vaccine for boys and girls at age 11 or 12.
“We’re getting to a point, I think, where we’re leading the nation in these types of initiatives to keep our population healthy,” said Anderson.
While the state says the HPV vaccine is safe after undergoing rigorous testing, critics disagree.
“It’s also not communicable in a school setting, so why are we forcing it to be a school requirement? If you really think that it could help prevent cancer, shouldn’t that be a choice?” questioned Haine.
The new requirements come as more parents opt out of mandatory vaccinations for their kids ― a trend that’s led to outbreaks of diseases like mumps and measles.
In Hawaii, the only allowable exemptions to the vaccine requirements are for medical or religious reasons. Despite the relatively narrow exemptions, figures released earlier this year show that at some Hawaii schools, a third or more of the children are unvaccinated.