HPV vaccines still required

Published 7:45 pm Thursday, March 1, 2012

By Alex Wiggins and Pia Talwar

Capital News Service

The Virginia Senate has rejected a House-approved bill to repeal a law requiring girls to get a dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine before entering sixth grade.

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The Senate voted 22-17 to send House Bill 1112 back to the Senate Education and Health Committee, effectively killing it for this legislative session.

The bill’s sponsor, Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, has said the General Assembly acted hastily in 2007 in passing the law mandating the HPV vaccine. She says the vaccine has not been adequately tested and that parents should decide whether their children should get the vaccine.

About half of sexually active people will get HPV during their lifetime. It is a leading cause of cervical cancer in women and genital warts in men and women.

“I am extraordinarily glad that the commonwealth will continue to immunize young people against this deadly disease,” said Sen. Barbara Favola, D-Arlington.

“In the past, the most successful immunization programs, such as those for smallpox or polio, required universal vaccination. Cervical cancer is the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the world, but with this vaccination, there is hope for ending the suffering caused by cervical cancer.”

The HPV vaccine comes in three doses. Virginia requires girls to receive the first dose before entering sixth grade. The current law has a liberal opt-out clause: Parents can choose not to have their daughters vaccinated after reviewing materials from the Virginia Board of Health describing the link between HPV and cervical cancer.

Virginia was the first state to adopt such a law. The District of Columbia has a similar mandate.

HB 1112 was co-sponsored by Delegate Timothy Hugo of Centreville and six other Republicans. While Republicans generally supported the legislation to rescind the HPV vaccination law, Democrats strongly opposed it.

Democratic Delegate Joe Morrissey of Highland Springs said he was “pleased that the Senate chose to effectively kill this legislation for this year, and it is my hope that the lives of young women will continue to be saved as a result.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that both girls and boys between the ages of 11 and 12 get the vaccine to protect them from HPV.

HB 1112 was approved by the House, 62-34, on Jan. 27. Last Thursday, the Senate Committee on Education and Health voted 8-7 in favor of the bill after modifying the legislation: The committee’s version said the Board of Health would give parents information about HPV and the vaccine, and the parent “may then choose whether to have such child receive three doses of properly spaced human papillomavirus vaccine.”

However, the full Senate then voted to send the bill back to the committee until 2013.