HPV Vaccine Bill Raises Ethical Concerns
Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber (D-San Jose) said that the NAACP and several organizations have registered their support for a bill (AB 16) that she introduced last month that would require all California girls entering the sixth grade to be immunized against human papillomavirus, the Los Angeles Times reports. HPV has been linked to cervical cancer (Hendricks, Los Angeles Times, 2/5).
Lieber last week withdrew authorship of the bill because of a potential conflict of interest with her husband's ownership of stock in Merck, which makes the HPV vaccine Gardasil. Assembly member Ed Hernandez (D-Baldwin Park) will carry the legislation (California Healthline, 2/2).
Public debate over the measure has centered between the government's obligation to safeguarding public health and individuals' rights to make their own health choices, according to the Times.
Critics say the required vaccination is promoting premarital sex or promiscuity, while others say that parents' rights would be violated.
The CDC recommends that girls receive the vaccine at ages 11 or 12, before they become sexually active.
Richard Zimmerman, a professor of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh, says the mandatory vaccine should not be linked to schools.
"HPV is not caught by sitting next to someone in class but by sexual contact, which often is a lifestyle choice," he says.
Louis Cooper, a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommends postponing a proposed requirement to give the public time to learn about the vaccine and health professionals more time to research the risks and benefits (Los Angeles Times, 2/5).
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) on Friday signed an executive order mandating that girls entering the sixth grade receive a human papillomavirus vaccine beginning in September 2008, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Texas mandate would affect approximately 365,000 girls annually.
Perry on Friday in a statement said, "The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer," adding, "Requiring young girls to get vaccinated before they come into contact with HPV is responsible health and fiscal policy" (Bustillo, Los Angeles Times, 2/3).
According to the New York Times, Perry said that parents who do not want their daughters to receive an HPV vaccine "for reasons of conscience, including religious beliefs," will be able to opt out of the requirement.
Under the executive order, girls and women ages nine to 21 who are eligible for public assistance will be able to receive no-cost Gardasil beginning immediately. Perry did not say how much the mandate would cost the state, although it is estimated to be about $60 million.
According to CDC spokesperson Curtis Allen, the vaccine is given in three shots over eight months and costs $360 (Blumenthal, New York Times, 2/3).
Perry spokesperson Krista Moody said the state would increase funding for existing health programs by $29.4 million annually to help cover the cost of the vaccine for low-income women and girls (Los Angeles Times, 2/3).
Summaries of recent broadcast reports on the Texas requirement are provided below.
- NBC's "Nightly News": The segment includes comments from Maurie Markman, vice president for clinical research at the Gynecologic Oncology Center at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center; parents who oppose the vaccination requirement; and a girl who received the vaccine (Okwu, "Nightly News," NBC, 2/2). Video of the segment is available online.
- ABC's "World News with Charles Gibson": The segment includes comments from David Stevens, CEO of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, and parents who oppose the vaccination requirement (McKenzie, "World News with Charles Gibson," 2/2). Video of the segment is available online.