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The Riverhead Central School District is considering opposing state legislative proposals that would mandate a human papillomavirus vaccine for all school students.

Superintendent Dr. Aurelia Henriquez said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting she had drafted a letter opposing bills pending in the State Senate and Assembly and would circulate the draft to school board members this week.

“We are a very diverse community, we believe in parental choice, and we support our parents in that,” Henriquez said in an interview. “We’re asking that they take another look at this and not require it because it’s going to have a major impact on us as a public school district.”

Board member Christopher Dorr urged board members to support the letter opposing the bills. 

“I’m opposed,” he said in an interview. “It’s a parent’s choice. It’s no health risk to anybody except children who either get it or don’t get it. I’d rather just not have the government involved,” he added.

The bills in the Assembly and Senate look to amend Section 2164 of the public health law by adding the HPV vaccine to the required list of immunizations, which already include: poliomyelitis, mumps, measles, diphtheria, rubella, varicella, Haemophilus influenzae type b 6, pertussis, tetanus, pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease and hepatitis B. 

If approved by the school board, the letter would go out to elected officials, Henriquez said.

Second District Assembly Member Anthony Palumbo (R-New Suffolk) said he opposes the bill.

“To expand the vaccination requirements even further is just outrageous,” Palumbo said in an interview today. “Where does it end?” he asked. “Mandating vaccines against viruses not transmitted through casual contact is far too expansive.” 

Palumbo said his office has been “flooded with calls” from constituents opposed to the new vaccine requirement.

Some parents in the Riverhead school district vehemently opposed a state law that removed all non-medical exemptions from school vaccination requirements. 

Palumbo said he opposed that legislative change as well. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, infects about 14 million people each year and it can cause up to six types of cancer and genital warts in men and women.

Studies by the CDC say that “HPV infections and cervical precancers (abnormal cells on the cervix that can lead to cancer) have dropped signi­ficantly since the vaccine has been in use.”

The CDC also states that “over 12 years of monitoring and research have shown that the HPV vaccination is very safe.”

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Maria Piedrabuena
María, a multimedia reporter, graduated from Stony Brook University with degrees in journalism and women and gender studies. She has worked for several news outlets including News12 and Fortune Magazine. A native of Spain, she loves to read, write and travel. She lives in Manorville. Email Maria