House bill lifts HPV vaccine rule

Published 10:23 pm Wednesday, February 1, 2012

By Pia Talwar

Capital News Service

The Virginia House of Delegates has voted to repeal the law requiring girls to receive the human papillomavirus vaccine before entering the sixth grade.

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On a 62-34 vote Friday, delegates passed House Bill 1112, which would rescind the state law mandating the HPV vaccine.

Sixty Republicans and two Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Thirty Democrats and four Republicans opposed HB 1112.

The measure was sponsored by Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg. She opposed Virginia’s 2007 HPV vaccination law and has campaigned to overturn it. She said the vaccine has not been adequately tested and that the General Assembly acted hastily in passing the requirement.

Last year, Byron also proposed legislation to repeal the HPV vaccination law, and her bill passed the House. However, it died in the Senate Health and Education Committee, which was dominated by Democrats at the time. This year, Republicans have the upper hand in the Senate, as well as the House.

After passing the House, HB 1112 was sent to the Senate for consideration. On Monday, the bill was referred to the Senate Health and Education Committee.

Virginia was the first state requiring girls to receive the HPV vaccine.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and at least half of sexually active people get the virus during their lifetime. HPV, which is spread by sexual contact, causes genital warts and cervical cancer.

In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil as an effective vaccine against HPV. Medical experts recommend that for the best protection, girls should receive the vaccine before becoming sexually active.

The state has supported the vaccine through local health departments and spends about $1 million a year. Last year, those departments provided 6,479 doses of the HPV vaccine to 11-year-old girls in Virginia.

Byron said parents, not the government, should decide whether girls should be vaccinated.

During Friday’s debate, Delegate Christopher P. Stolle, R-Chesapeake, a gynecologist, argued against HB 1112. Stolle said the current mandate “ensures that the vaccination will be provided by insurance companies and the state and by the health departments.”

He proposed an amendment to ensure that parents receive information about the vaccine; it was rejected.

In several states, there has been a debate over whether getting the HPV vaccine encourages girls to have sex. Only Washington, D.C., has followed Virginia in requiring the vaccine. In both jurisdictions, parents can sign a waiver and decline to have their daughters vaccinated.