The State Board of Education (SBOE) has approved health education standards that would require public schools to teach the importance of human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines beginning in seventh grade.
The Texas Medical Association and Texas Pediatric Society (TPS) jointly advocated for the standards, which call for all seventh- and eighth-grade students to be able to identify that HPV vaccines are effective in preventing the transmission of HPV, and prevent genital warts and cervical and other cancers in males and females.
High school students who take an elective health course will receive similar instruction.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is revising the statewide standards for health education for the first time since 1997. They dictate the knowledge and skills students are expected to master in the health curriculum in every grade in Texas public schools.
Galveston urologist Matt Robinson, MD, representing SBOE District 7 (Friendswood), was instrumental in ensuring medically accurate language throughout.
“Accurate science needs to be taught to Texas school children,” Dr. Robinson said. “This includes protecting the public health of all kids by teaching the life-saving importance of immunizations.”
In addition, the board left intact language that would require students learn the importance of all immunizations beginning in kindergarten, and continuing in first, second, third, and sixth grades.
The board is expected to finalize the new standards, along with other public-school curriculum standards, in November.
“We are really thankful for the wisdom and courage of the leaders and members of the SBOE to prioritize our future health in this state by ensuring children receive medically accurate information on immunizations,” TMA President Diana Fite, MD, said.
Beginning last year, TEA convened multiple workgroups to conduct the revision, with the help of health and education content experts. TMA and TPS submitted recommendations and provided testimony during public comment opportunities to ensure medically accurate and developmentally appropriate curriculum standards.
Although an HPV vaccine has been around for 13 years, less than half of Texas teens (43.4%) have received a complete series of HPV vaccine, the Department of State Health Services reported in December.
SBOE also is debating other issues important to Texas health, including tobacco and vaping, physical activity, healthy eating, contraception, mental health, and substance use.
Find more information on the TMA HPV Resource Center, which includes a guide to help you talk about HPV vaccines with your patients.