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HPV Vaccine Study Proposed

Legislation to require young girls to receive the vaccination against the virus that can cause cervical cancer may have been shelved, but a Prince George's County delegate doesn't want the issue taken completely off the table.

Del. Joseline A. Pena-Melnyk (D-Prince George's) has introduced a bill to form a task force to study the vaccine, which was designed to guard against human papillomavirus, or HPV, a virus that is often sexually transmitted and is known to cause cervical cancer.

"I think it's important to keep the discussion going," Pena-Melnyk said. "It's important to educate ourselves about what the vaccine does."

A bill was introduced last month that would have required all middle school girls to be vaccinated. Similar measures are under consideration in D.C. and Virginia, as well. Maryland's legislation was pulled less than two weeks after it was introduced because of concerns about the number of vaccinations that children were receiving.

Sen. Delores G. Kelly (D-Baltimore City) said recently that teachers, schools and parents had flooded her office with calls about the proposed vaccine. "They thought it would exacerbate the problem," Kelly said, referring to the recent vaccination requirement that forced thousands of students to miss school.

Pena-Melnyk said the task force, which would be made up of doctors, educators and parents, would discuss whether the vaccination would be mandatory, what the age requirement would be, and whether it is affordable.
The task force would report back the General Assembly with its findings by December 2008.

Ovetta Wiggins

By Phyllis Jordan  |  February 12, 2007; 6:58 AM ET
Categories:  General Assembly  
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Comments

Now that dems are in total control, expect EVERY nanny-state initiative, however nutty, that is proposed in ANY city or state, to get pushed in MD.

Posted by: gitarre | February 12, 2007 7:40 AM | Report abuse

Oh yeah, a government trying to safe-guard its populace against a preventable and life-threatening disease. I never understood why conservatives don't believe that if people want something done, they shouldn't believe government is a good place to get it done. This is a worthy program, the kids who are not getting vaccinated in general, are the people most likely to contract HPV. Plus they are the main ones who only get medical care when it is an emergency and that is when it is most expensive, and if they don't have insurance, it is you cheap conservatives and the rest of us who have to pay for that emergency care. Lets just set this policy, and do as much as we can to get those that can't afford the vaccination, get free ones. This is a disease that can be eradicated in our lifetime, and there is no more noble goal for people or government.

Posted by: RCD | February 12, 2007 9:07 AM | Report abuse

RCD, you're pretty naive if you don't see that Merck is simply pushing to require a potentially dangerous vaccination ONLY TO MAKE MONEY. Can you say VIOXX?

Posted by: Anonymous | February 12, 2007 10:28 AM | Report abuse

Public health is, by its nature, the province of government. To describe a vaccination program as a "nanny state initiative" is to fundamentally misunderstand its purpose. Not to sound callous, but the point is less to protect any individual than to prevent disease in the whole population. It's unlikely that herd immunity could be achieved on a totally voluntary basis.

Posted by: EG | February 12, 2007 10:31 AM | Report abuse

Hey gitarre:

Why are you so anti-women? If you are against preventing a life-threating disease and saving millions of dollars in health care costs by preventing an illness before it happens, then one can only surmise that you wish women to perish.

Without healthy women in monogamous, heterosexual relationships with men like yourself, how can you create the families you so wish to instill your values upon?

I hope I did not use too many syllables so you can understand why you are wrong.

Posted by: Where's Your Family Values? | February 12, 2007 10:47 AM | Report abuse

RCD - even a liberal might have concerns with state intervention on this issue.

The vaccine is marketed as Gardasil by Merck Co. They pushed mandatory vaccination legislation through in TX, one of the most socially conservative states, by doubling its lobbying budget and targeting Women in Government, an advocacy group of women legislators which takes corporate donations from Merck. One of Merck's TX lobbyists is Gov Perry's former chief-of-staff; his current chief-of-staff's mother-in-law is a TX director for Women in Government.

No surprise that he utilized an executive order to thwart any legislative opposition.

In Maryland, the majority leader of the senate is married to Merck's Annapolis lobbyist.

Perhaps we shouldn't begrudge Merck's potential windfall, provided a mandatory vaccination program is in the public's best interest. From the FDA's licensing statement:

The manufacturer has agreed to conduct several studies following licensure, including additional studies to further evaluate general safety and long-term effectiveness.

From the manufacturer's site:

GARDASIL is given as 3 injections over 6 months and can cause pain, swelling, itching, and redness at the injection site, fever, nausea, and dizziness. Only a doctor or healthcare professional can decide if GARDASIL is right for you or your daughter.

From the National Vaccine Information Center:

In an analysis of reports made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) since the CDC's July 2006 universal use recommendation for all young girls, NVIC found reports of loss of consciousness, seizures, joint pain and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

and:

"The most frequent serious health events after GARDASIL shots are neurological symptoms," said NVIC Health Policy Analyst Vicky Debold, RN, Ph.D. "These young girls are experiencing severe headaches, dizziness, temporary loss of vision, slurred speech, fainting, involuntary contraction of limbs (seizures), muscle weakness, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet and joint pain. Some of the girls have lost consciousness during what appears to be seizures."

Merck also states that "The duration of immunity following a complete schedule of immunization with GARDASIL has not been established."

Now let me ask you a question: Do you think it's ethical to force young women to become a trial study group for long-term effects?

Here is an article about lobbying efforts in Maryland, with opinions from the vaccine community.

Apparently, this delegate Pena-Melnyk is desperate to keep this on the table. Shame on her.


Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 10:53 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 10:55 AM | Report abuse

"GARDASIL is given as 3 injections over 6 months and can cause pain, swelling, itching, and redness at the injection site, fever, nausea, and dizziness"

So could a majority of other injections. Every read the warning label and possible reactions to aspirin?


There is intense lobbying since HPV is sexually transmitted (OH MY GOSH, people have sex???) and conservatives think if kids are immunized from HPV, they'll go out and screw everybody. Hence, the need for lobbying.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 12, 2007 10:59 AM | Report abuse

So, people think it is a good thing for the state to mandate that all people get drugs injected into their bodies, willingly or otherwise, for the sake of herd immunity? Is that right? Is this China or America?

Posted by: k-romulus | February 12, 2007 11:04 AM | Report abuse

So could a majority of other injections. Every read the warning label and possible reactions to aspirin?


There is intense lobbying since HPV is sexually transmitted (OH MY GOSH, people have sex???) and conservatives think if kids are immunized from HPV, they'll go out and screw everybody. Hence, the need for lobbying.

It's simple. Show me Merck's studies on long-term effects, and I'll agree with you.

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

Here's a story on Virginia lobbying efforts that ran in the Post this weekend.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/10/AR2007021001279.html

Posted by: Phyllis Jordan | February 12, 2007 11:13 AM | Report abuse

Thank you Phyllis. I would concur with the American Cancer Society opinion: broad access -- yes, mandatory -- no. It's too early.

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 11:17 AM | Report abuse

I don't know much about this vaccine, minus what the media has pushed, and I'm sure most of the public doesn't either. I'm concerned about long term effects and requiring a large segment of the population being injected with it. How long has this drug been used for? By how many girls? How old are they now? What long-term side effects are there? What happens if the drug is 10 years old, and the 14 year old is now 24 and no one has any idea of the side effects of it when she's 30+ even. There's too many unanswered questions I don't know and can't answer, but I feel it's the drug companies job to do this research and legislators responsibility to find out all it can and long-term effects before it makes it a requirement for a kid to go to school. I'm sure alot of the legislators are as uninformed as I and are voting on the resolution as well...

Posted by: anon | February 12, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

anon -- yes, exactly. The drug companies need more trials & studies before legislators can begin talking about mandatory vs optional, etc.

The task force is premature, and I worry that it's just a legitimizing vehicle to conform with Merck's rush to market.

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 11:29 AM | Report abuse

Anyone suggesting that the state has the right to force people to receive vaccinations against their will is anti-American.

And yes, before you leftist whackjobs chime in, I am fully aware of the current vaccination requirements, since I have 2 kids in school (in Virginia, where at least some individual freedoms and rights remain). As a parent, I think that anyone who refuses to get their kid vaccinated is a complete idiot. Still, it's not Government's job to force this issue.

What's next, taking away people's right to smoke, because Government doesn't like it? (oh wait...)

Posted by: JD | February 12, 2007 11:43 AM | Report abuse

JD - I'm a leftist whackjob, and I agree with you.

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 11:46 AM | Report abuse

FDA and NIH should study this, not a new Delegate looking for ink.

Posted by: not the state | February 12, 2007 12:10 PM | Report abuse

Joseline rocks!

Of course, it's the place of the government to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Spreading a disease violates the rights of others. We have a duty to protect others from infection. For some diseases that requires vaccination.

The question is whether this vaccine works and what the side effects are. Lets take a close look how Gardasil performs during the next years. Then we can answer those questions and determine whether we have an obligation to get vaccinated.

Posted by: Yockel | February 12, 2007 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Not the state, which delegate is looking for ink? How do you know what motivates people? Can you read minds?

Your statement leaps to conclusions that are not warranted by the facts. Lets be reasonable.

Posted by: Yockel | February 12, 2007 12:16 PM | Report abuse

Yokel, you don't seem to think there's a line drawn, where the government's efforts to prevent disease means they can violate the individual rights of Americans to refuse invasive procedures.

Yes, they have the duty and responsibility to prevent the spread of disease...at the borders, and by spraying for mosquitos, and inspecting food, etc. But NOT by forcing people to take a needle that they might not want, for whatever incoherent reason.

Posted by: JD | February 12, 2007 12:32 PM | Report abuse

Why aren't they proposing to vaccinate young men! The males are the carriers of the virus aren't they?

Posted by: What about boys! | February 12, 2007 12:42 PM | Report abuse

Does the vaccine Gardasil prevent all types of cervical cancer? If as many reports have already stated, heart disease kills more women in this country than breast and cervical cancer COMBINED, where is the vaccine for heart disease? Who is held liable for serious adverse reactions? The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program? How does that work and who is responsible for explaining this to the public? How do you "opt out"? Is this a time consuming process? If you are a parent or guardian in jail, prison, a mental institution, overseas in the military or in any other way institutionalized, do such parents/guardians give up their right to give consent? If a girl in is juvenile detention, foster care, a mental institution or in any way institutionalized, who will protect the legal rights of a girl in such a situation?

For a girl who is differently abled, ie., in a wheel chair, has cerebal palsy, mentally retarded, etc., is this vaccine "mandatory" for them as well?

For families whose primary language is not English, who will explain this to those families?

Why the rush for such a vaccine given that it has only been approved for less than a year?

The National Vaccination Information Center, Vienna, VA states that reports of serious adverse reactions have been reported from 21 states and WDC including a 14 year old girl who was vaccinated in July 2006. Why hasn't anyone followed up on that? I attended the WDC City Council hearing on Feb. 9 and it was a white wash! Mr. Catania blew this information off.

Lastly, given the high rate of HIV?AIDS here in WDC, why isn't HIV/AIDS testing "mandatory" for every resident of this city between the ages of 13 to 85 as has been previously suggested to bring the HIV/AIDS crisis under control?

Posted by: just one concerned citizen | February 12, 2007 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Yockel: The question is whether this vaccine works and what the side effects are.

It is highly unlikely that field studies will be completed and reviewed by medical experts before the state wades into it per your fav delegate's timeline.

It is clear there are other issues besides safety and efficacy -- which can be deliberated by the state with input once the latter is established.

Posted by: PGsaysNo | February 12, 2007 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"Only a doctor or healthcare professional can decide if GARDASIL is right for you or your daughter."

So now the Left is anti-Choice and wants to decide what vaccines women will be required to take?

Posted by: Rufus | February 12, 2007 1:11 PM | Report abuse

"This is a worthy program, the kids who are not getting vaccinated in general, are the people most likely to contract HPV." Not true - 80% of american women come into contact with HPV over their lifetime. The strands of HPV that cause cervical cancer are not the ones that cause genital warts, so most women have the virus and don't even know it. In many healthy women the virus clears itself within a year. Until a year or so ago most women, even ones who received yearly paps weren't tested for the virus, they were simply tested for cervical cell changes. HPV affects healthy cell growth on the cervix, so women with routine paps would discover irregular cell growth, generally before it is pre-cancerous. The women likely to suffer from cervical cancer are the ones who don't discover cervical cancer until it is symptomatic. This may be the same population as the "the kids who are not being vaccinated," but there is no way this is the same population group as the people who contract HPV.

Posted by: LaLab | February 12, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

HPV is really sneaky, few symptoms for males and females. You can be the most careful person and still get it by sleeping with the wrong person one time. So I applaud the effort of the state for trying to protect women, but the pharma business is just that, a business out for $$$ and its too soon to mandate that every girl from here on have a shot. The FDA has ben too quick to approve drugs lately and I think a wait and see and STUDY approach is best at this time.

Posted by: On the Fence | February 12, 2007 2:43 PM | Report abuse

HPV is really sneaky, few symptoms for males and females. You can be the most careful person and still get it by sleeping with the wrong person one time. So I applaud the effort of the state for trying to protect women, but the pharma business is just that, a business out for $$$ and its too soon to mandate that every girl from here on have a shot. The FDA has ben too quick to approve drugs lately and I think a wait and see and STUDY approach is best at this time.

Posted by: On the Fence | February 12, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

It's simple. If the government were NOT to require this immunization, only the "liberals" will get it. Why do you ask? Simple.

The "conservatives" will assume that an HPV immunization will result in promiscuity among their children and therefore will not get it. Their children (who will have sex) will be at risk for cervical cancer. Their foolish religious-based misbeliefs will put their children at risk for cancer.

We MUST protect these children from their parents.

Posted by: Fiscal conservative | February 12, 2007 3:37 PM | Report abuse

The user who quoted officials of the National Vaccine Information Center didn't mention that it's a biased group; the organization's website notes that it "attempts to educate parents about the risks of immunizing their children."

Posted by: textdoc | February 12, 2007 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Obviously, the rantings by 'Fiscal conservative' are nonsense. If PGsaysNo, a kind-hearted lefty, and me, a knuckle-draggin, mouth-breathin caveman of a conservative, both agree that this is an invasion of personal privacy and rights, maybe even the 4th amendment, then it's pretty obvious that Fiscal is just posting to read himself online.

As a conservative, I sign my kids up for every vaccine I can get ahold of (well, not this one since I only have boys, but you get the drift). The only thing that puts me off is the mercury-causing-autism debate in vogue on Imus and other circles. Still, vaccines save so many more than they kill or maim, I think that parents must do this to protect their children.

That said, NO GOVERNMENT should be in the business of forced immunizations; that slope is way too slippery for my liking.

Posted by: JD | February 12, 2007 4:19 PM | Report abuse

For folks asking about boys/men... There is some association between HPV and anal cancer. However, clinical trials on the vaccine (Gardasil is the only approved vaccine, but Cervarix is coming very soon) were't conducted on boys/men in the first round.

Currently, there is no test for HPV in men/boys.

For folks in the "no forced vaccinations" camp. I agree that the arguments of personal choice are immediately compelling. But think it through. Without mandatory vaccination we can't achieve herd immunity. Without herd immunity (95% or more), the disease stay around.

Why is polio gone (save for developing nations)? Why don't we see diptheria? Or small pox (for which hardly anyone is even vaccinated anymore)? Because everyone, or very nearly so, is immunized. By ensuring high levels of immunity, the viruses die out.

Without herd immunity we see resurgences of disease - look at measles in Boston or cases of pertussis (whooping cough) in the midwest.

By refusing to vaccinate yourself or child, you are putting others lives at risk. It is the classic free rider problem: not vaccinating yourself or your child probably won't result in harm to you, them, or others precisely because other people have vaccinated, thereby lowering the incidence of disease. You are, essentially, freeriding on the beneficial public health actions of others.

Posted by: Melissa | February 12, 2007 6:09 PM | Report abuse

Part of the problem is that Leftists can't understand that not everyone is just like them and that many people are capable of resisting every impulse that comes their way.

Posted by: Rufus | February 13, 2007 8:38 AM | Report abuse

When you demand freedom from vaccinations, JD, then you are claiming a right to infect other people. That's a perversion of freedom.

There is no right to hurt others.

If it were only about yourself then I would agree that the government has no role. Since HPV is not only deadly but also contagious, our personal health has consequences for others.

Your notion that infectious diseases can be stopped at the borders is curious. Microorganisms do not travel with passports. In some cases, border enforcement can slow contagions. There is no case in history when a contagion was ever stopped by a political border.

Vaccinations, not borders, have been the most important contributor in stemming contagious diseases and prolonging the life expectancy of individuals and the human species.

Every liberal democracy requires its residents to vaccinate against several contagious diseases. That includes all fifty states in the union.

By the way, the founding fathers used mandatory vaccinations. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband in 1770s that she had taken their children to be inoculated against smallpox. National laws requiring vaccination begun appearing as early as 1805.

In light of the biology and the effects of contagious diseases on people other than ourselves, appeals to freedom amount to nonsense and cannot absolve us from our obligation to get vaccinated.

Rather the questions about Gardasil are technical. Joseline Peña-Melnyk is correct that the state legislature ought to be aware of the state of the research.

Posted by: Yockel | February 13, 2007 10:34 AM | Report abuse

HPV is not contagious! That is like saying HIV is contagious. It is not.

Posted by: not contagious! | February 13, 2007 3:14 PM | Report abuse

HPV and HIV are both viruses that transmit diseases from person to person.

Posted by: Yockel | February 13, 2007 7:06 PM | Report abuse

There's a big difference between mandating polio or measles vaccinations and mandating the new HPV vaccination, particularly for school age girls. Polio and measles can be contracted through casual contact, so it makes sense for the state, particularly public schools, to mandate vaccination against such diseases. No girl is going to contract HPV in the course of an ordinary school day.

Posted by: offourbacks | February 16, 2007 3:34 PM | Report abuse

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