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Palm Coast Wednesday, Aug. 21, 2019 1 month ago

School Board debates HPV vaccines

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The Department of Health would like to offer the vaccines on school campuses, but School Board members are wary.
by: Jonathan Simmons News Editor

Updated at 6:35 a.m. Aug. 29

The Florida Department of Health in Flagler County already provides two vaccinations — for flu and TDaP, or Tetanus, Diphtheria and Pertussis — on local school campuses to students whose parents sign a consent form to have their children receive them. Department of Health staff would like to offer a third — the HPV vaccine — that could be administered for sixth graders at the same time as the TDaP vaccine. 

The children who receive vaccines at school, said Florida Department of Health in Flagler County Administrator Bob Snyder and Medical Director Stephen Bickel, are often getting them there because their parents can’t afford to get them elsewhere, or are working multiple jobs and unable to take the child to doctors offices that are closed in the evenings and on weekends.

The vaccine would prevent the nine forms of HPV that are linked to cancer, among others.

But several School Board members, during a workshop the afternoon of Aug. 20, were not ready to approve the Health Department’s request to add a section to parent consent forms that would allow parents to request that the Health Department also administer the HPV vaccine. 

Two board members — Janet McDonald and Maria Barbosa — raised concerns about vaccine reactions and the school district’s potential liability if a child were to have such a reaction.

McDonald said that administering vaccinations during school hours uses up valuable instruction time, and that parents who want their children vaccinated can do that on their own time.

"I’d just like to know, why is such a high proportion of our population self-responsible?" McDonald said. "I mean, we’ve had a lot of discussion about this, about a very small part of our population who’s expecting the schools to provide that. And I appreciate the community members that take that personal responsibility for their family’s health to heart, and I think there are ways that we can make available to folks who don’t have easy access to have access that doesn’t take instructional time, because it does impact. One thing after another after another, it does impact."

Board member Colleen Conklin said she wasn’t willing to allow the addition of the HPV vaccine if the only thing parents have to do get it for their child is sign a consent form; she wanted to ensure parents had more information.

“I might be willing to go along if the parents come to an informational session,” she said. 

Department of Health staff members replied that many of the parents who’d be most helped by having their children vaccinated on campus would be unable to attend such a session, for scheduling reasons.

Board members Andy Dance and Trevor Tucker did not voice objections to the proposed vaccine, and Dance suggested a compromise: that — rather than just sending a form home with kids who need the TDAP vaccine and adding to it a check box for the HPV vaccine — the Department of Health call those parents to give them more information and get their verbal consent as well as written consent.

“We don’t mind giving information,” Snyder said. “We’d be happy to convey information.”

Conklin, wanting to gauge the community’s support for the HPV vaccine before providing access on school campuses, also urged Snyder and Bickel to survey parents during PTA meetings and report back to the board at a meeting in November or December.

Editor's Note: Janet McDonald was misquoted as saying the word "irresponsible" in the original version. This story has been corrected to replace "irresponsible" with "self-responsible."

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