National Institutes of Health

When Rhode Island health officials rolled out a new immunization requirement for seventh graders this fall, they weren’t expecting controversy. The vaccine for HPV, or human papillomavirus, protects against a sexually transmitted infection that causes most cervical, anal, and throat cancers. But a small but vocal group of opponents say the state shouldn’t mandate the HPV vaccine, and they’re taking the fight to the statehouse.

Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island’s health department canceled a community meeting about the HPV vaccine planned for Thursday at the Middletown Public Library. A department spokeswoman says staff have been threatened online. The department decided to cancel the event after consulting with State Police. 

Rhode Island now requires boys and girls entering seventh grade to get the HPV vaccine to prevent cervical and other kinds of cancers. Some Rhode Islanders have protested the vaccine mandate. They can request an exemption. 

The state’s health department is considering updates to its immunization policy for school kids from preschool through college. The proposals would require flu shots for kids up to age five and the HPV vaccine for kids entering ninth grade.