Pencil case, assignment book, HPV vaccine

L.A. schools to make Gardasil available to female students this fall.

Published August 23, 2006 3:11AM (EDT)

While the FDA continues to fiddle over Plan B, some schools are already starting to implement plan A for the HPV vaccine: get it to girls. The Los Angeles Unified School District is planning to make Merck's Gardasil available to middle and elementary school girls this fall; other city districts may follow suit. An editorial in the L.A. Times supports the move; a Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist urges Washington schools to do the same. Some Texas schools are at least starting to talk about it.

As recommended by the CDC, the vaccine has already made its way into the federal Vaccines for Children program, so eligible students needn't be deterred by the over-$300 price tag.

What about the rumors that the major side effect of the vaccine is ... sex? Well, for one thing, the vaccine is not mandatory. For another, while many parents are given pause, research suggests that a majority would want their daughters to be immunized. And, if we are to dream, the rest will get the L.A. Times' message: "There is no research suggesting that [the vaccine encourages sexual behavior] -- any more than there is evidence that giving people tetanus shots encourages them to step on rusty nails. The value of a vaccine is in the disease it has been proved to prevent, not in the behavior it may or may not encourage. In this case, Gardasil could prevent thousands of women from dying of cervical cancer." And, along the way, it could teach students a subtle civics lesson about why, at least in this instance/in theory, Science classes are taught separately from Politics.

By Lynn Harris

Award-winning journalist Lynn Harris is author of the comic novel "Death by Chick Lit" and co-creator of She also writes for the New York Times, Glamour, and many others.

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