Education

Southold School District joins opposition of mandatory HPV vaccine

Southold School District has joined the list of several North Fork school districts who have publicly opposed the potential amendment to Section 2164 of the state public health law, which mandates a human papillomavirus vaccine for all public school students.

In a letter dated Dec. 18, 2019, from Southold’s five school board members to New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senator Ken LaValle and Assemblyman Anthony Palumbo, board members said that they “fervently object to this proposed legislation” that would immunize all children born after Jan. 2, 2009.

The letter comes after one family in the district expressed concern to board members about the mandate. Superintendent David Gamberg said in a previous interview that the board has been working to consider “how they would like to proceed with these concerns in mind.”

If the legislation is approved by the Senate, it could take effect Sept. 1, 2021.

The letter states that “HPV can only be transmitted through sexual contact and poses no threat to the school-aged population at large.”

“To require that children be vaccinated against a sexually-transmitted disease or be denied entrance to school is unconscionable,” the letter states.

The HPV vaccine, which prevents certain cancers, is typically given to children around the age of 11 or 12. The revised bill states that HPV is “an incredibly common sexually transmitted infection that can be passed even when an infected person is asymptomatic, and can cause genital warts or cancer.”

Only parents and guardians are responsible for their children’s health care and education, the Southold letter noted.

“It is a parent’s/guardian’s right to decide … what is appropriate for their children in regards to vaccinations beyond the extensive list of communicable disease vaccinations already required for school attendance.”

Last year’s amendment to the law, which prohibited the use of religious exemptions for vaccination requirements, sparked concern from parents in the Riverhead Central School District. School board members in Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River districts have already opposed the HPV mandate.

In neighboring Mattituck-Cutchogue district, board members are also working to reach out to local legislators, district superintendent Jill Gierasch said.

“The district has heard from several parents and we feel our elected officials can have the greatest impact knowing there is opposition coming from our school community,” she said in a previous interview. “As this is a legal issue, we want to encourage parents to reach out to our local legislators to voice their concern.”

The bill is sponsored by Senator Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan), who sponsored legislation eliminating the religious exemption for vaccines for schoolchildren.

The HPV vaccine is mandated for public school students in Rhode Island, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

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