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Ballston-Virginia Square Patch.com: House Passes Bill Lifting HPV Vaccine Rule Print


Created:  Wednesday, February 1, 2012

RICHMOND (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.

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 Del. Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg. She opposed Virginia's 2007 HPV vaccination law and has campaigned to overturn it. She said that 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.

Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, voted against lifting the rule. Hope argued that the current "opt-in" situation allows parents to receive a letter explaining the benefits of the vaccine and provides the vaccination for free to young girls who are not covered by Medicaid or private insurance.

"It means we're taking away the educational piece and we're taking away the piece for poor individuals to receive the vaccine," Hope said. "There are a number of vaccines that are required, that you have to show documentation of having before you go to school. This is not one of them."

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. It remains in 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, Del. 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.

Hope said the measure was a continuation of Republicans imposing their social agenda on Virginia.

"The proponents of this law will say that having this vaccine encourages promiscuity, which is not factual at all. There's no evidence to suggest that. What we're trying to do is save the lives of women," he said.

"I have three daughters at home, so this is personal for me. You better believe that as soon as my children are able to get the vaccine, they're going to get it, because I'm interested in saving their lives."