HPV vaccine-related bill moves in Senate but it’s going nowhereby Dara Kam | February 22nd, 2012
Linking schools with the HPV vaccine for young girls can be dangerous for politicians, as Texas Gov. Rick Perry learned when he was on the national stage defending his state’s forced requirement of the shot to prevent sexually transmitted diseases.
But the controversial vaccine is included in a measure unanimously approved by a Senate panel Wednesday afternoon that would simply require schools to give out information about the vaccines to all 6th-graders. The measure (SB 1116) would also require the state health department to add the human papillomavirus to the list of communicable diseases for which vaccines are recommended.
Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, asked a series of pointed questions to establish that the bill would not force vaccines on anyone.
“It does not,” bill sponsor Thad Altman, R-Melbourne, said.
Gaetz then asked if parents would be required to opt out of getting the vaccination or be required for girls to enroll in school.
“Absolutely not. It’s just information for the parent,” Altman said.
Perhaps another reason for the unanimous support from the seven-member panel on which a single Democrat sits is because the bill has no chance of passing in the House.
“Hope springs eternal,” Altman said, acknowledging that the House bill has yet to get a single hearing with just two weeks left before the legislative session ends.
The HPV vaccine drew fire in Florida in 2007 when some lawmakers attempted to require it for 11 and 12-year-old girls to enroll in school, part of a nationwide rush to embrace the vaccine fueled by lobbying by Merck, the manufacturer of the HPV vaccine “Gardasil.”
That same year, 20 other states considered similar legislation, but only Virginia and the District of Columbia passed mandates adding the drug to the list of vaccines required for children to attend school. Perry issued the requirement through an executive order.
have such requirements on the books.
The vaccine prevents women from getting cervical cancer and genital warts caused by certain types of the human papilloma virus, but is only effective if taken before a girl or woman is exposed to the virus.
HPV is transmitted through genital contact and affects more than half of the population of sexually active men and women at some point, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann drew attention to the vaccination again during the GOP presidential candidate debates when she said linked the vaccine to mental retardation. The American Academy of Pediatrics fired back that there is no scientific validity to the statement.