HPV vaccine requirement may disappear

Katherine Coates

Capital News Service

A bill to eliminate the mandate for girls in Virginia to receive the HPV vaccine was passed by the House and has moved on to the Senate.

Delegate Kathy Byron, R-Lynchburg, said she sponsored House Bill 1419 to return medical decisions back to families. She said the decision of what vaccine to give children should be made in the household.

“Substituting our judgment for the judgment of government is exactly what we rejected at the polls,” Byron said.

The human papillomavirus virus is spread by skin-to-skin and sexual contact. There are over 100 different strains, several of which can also cause genital warts. The Center for Disease Control classifies HPV as a sexually transmitted virus. Certain strains of the virus are the leading cause of cervical cancer in women.

The HPV vaccine  was approved in 2006 by the FDA to prevent cervical cancer in young women and in 2010 it was approved for genital warts in young men. The vaccine was found to be most successful against cervical cancer when given at a young age. Virginia is currently the only state that retains a mandate requiring the vaccine.

Byron wants to lift the mandate because the vaccine is still new and all of the effects have not been studied. The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, a public health system that detects side effects in new drugs for the FDA, reported 39 deaths in vaccine recipients in 2009. Only 26 of these deaths have been investigated by scientists and they found nothing to confirm they were caused by the vaccine.

“(The vaccine) is good for developing countries but, there are other ways of preventing cervical cancer in a country like ours,” Byron said.

Not everyone agrees with  House Bill 1419. Dr. Richard Brookeman specializes in adolescent care at the VCU Medical Center in Richmond, Va. and studied cervical cancer on the Virginia Governor’s Task Force for Cervical Cancer.

He said the HPV vaccine is the best protection from cervical cancer and fears without the mandate fewer people will know to get protected. At his clinic in Richmond, he has administered the vaccine to over 900 children, including males without negative reactions.

“There has not been any pattern of side effect that was felt to be harmful. There are no risks that would outweigh the benefits,” Brookeman said.

According to the Center for Disease Control, cervical cancer causes about 4,000 deaths in the United States a year. Brookeman said cervical cancer can also be caught early if women get regular pap smears and use protection during sex.

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