CDC committee recommends HPV vaccine for girls age 11-12… but the battle’s not over

Contributed by Madeline Halperin-Robinson
This afternoon the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) unanimously voted to recommend routine vaccination against HPV for girls age 11-12. The committee’s recommendations are non-binding – it is now up to each state to decide whether or not to put these recommendations into practice and make the vaccine mandatory for all 11-12 year olds before they enter school.
But more hurdles to access must be cleared before we can declare victory over the STI that can cause cervical cancer. Typically, the committee’s recommendations are adopted by each state and used as a guide for government and private insurers to decide whether or not to cover the vaccine. But we are not living in typical times. Feministing has already reported about the far right’s opposition to making the vaccine available to poor women and girls, and they may still succeed.
The ACIP committee’s recommendations are great news for rational people who believe science should trump political ideology. All but two states allow religious exceptions to mandatory vaccines, and many states allow exemptions for philosophical reasons– so fundamentalists will be able to say no to the vaccine for their own daughters. But that’s not enough for the religious right. They want to foist their religious beliefs on all young girls. We may see individual states bow to these pressures and make the unprecedented move to go against the ACIP recommendations. This would derail efforts to make the vaccine available to all by weakening the incentive for insurance companies to cover the cost of the vaccine.
Full disclosure: Madeline researches this issue as part of her job with the Sexuality and Family Rights program at Legal Momentum.

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