Education Opinion

A Different Sex Story

By Eduwonkette — March 11, 2008 2 min read
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$4300 is today’s magic number, but perhaps we should be talking about 25% instead. Today, a CDC study reports that 1 in 4 teenage girls has a sexually transmitted disease. From the AP article:

A virus that causes cervical cancer is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection in teen girls aged 14 to 19, while the highest overall prevalence is among black girls — nearly half the blacks studied had at least one STD. That rate compared with 20 percent among both whites and Mexican-American teens, the study from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found....Among girls who admitted ever having sex, the rate was 40 percent.

18% of girls in the study had HPV. Is there a role for school entry policies and school-based vaccination programs in increasing the HPV vaccination rate? The Guttmacher Institute has written:

A large body of evidence suggests that the most effective means to ensure rapid and widespread use of childhood or adolescent vaccines is through state laws or policies that require children to be vaccinated prior to enrollment in day care or school. These school-based immunization requirements, which exist in some form in all 50 states, are widely credited for the success of immunization programs in the United States. They have also played a key role in helping to close racial, ethnic and socioeconomic gaps in immunization rates, and have proven to be far more effective than guidelines recommending the vaccine for certain age-groups or high-risk populations.

School entry requirements might therefore provide an important opportunity to deliver public health interventions that, like the HPV vaccine, offer protections to individuals who have the potential to become disconnected from health care services later in life. Similar to the HPV vaccine’s promise of cervical cancer prevention, these benefits may not be felt for many years, but nonetheless may be compelling from a societal standpoint. And bearing in mind that school dropout rates begin to climb as early as age 13, middle school might be appropriately viewed as the last public health gate that an entire age-group of individuals pass through together—regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.

Here is a CDC Q&A on the HPV vaccine. In my view, states should add the HPV vaccine to the menu of shots students should receive before entering school. And schools are promising sites to vaccinate older students (especially since students must receive 3 shots over the course of six months). What do you think?

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