Va. House will vote Friday on bill to eliminate HPV vaccine mandate for girls
Virginia's House of Delegates on Thursday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would no longer require girls to receive the HPV vaccine, after a lengthy and impassioned debate that chipped away at the usual partisan lines.
After arguing its risks and benefits, the Republican-led House, on a voice vote Thursday, advanced to final reading a bill lifting the mandate requiring school-age girls to be vaccinated against a virus that has been found to cause cervical cancer in adults. The bill is scheduled to receive a final House vote Friday.
The House will hold a final vote on the measure Friday morning.
Del. Kathy J. Byron (R-Lynchburg), who sponsored HB1419, said she was not arguing that the risks outweighed the benefits. But Byron, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New England Journal of Medicine, emphasized the reported risk of adverse reactions. She said parents alone should decide whether their daughters should receive the vaccine.
"You'll hear a lot of doctors that are convinced that this drug is the best thing for girls. And it may be appropriate for some children, and not other children. But I still believe that's a decision that shouldn't be made by the state, something that should be made by the parents," Byron said. She said Virginia is the only state to mandate the vaccine.
Other Republican supporters of lifting the mandate reminded lawmakers that the measure passed in 2007 with a good amount of lobbying from the vaccine's maker.
But Del. Christopher P. Stolle (R-Virginia Beach), who is an obstetrician and gynecologist, stood to speak long and forcefully against his fellow Republican's bill. Citing his own facts and figures -- and professional experience as a licensed physician -- Stolle said that removing the mandate would mean that as many as 1,300 more women a year would die. Stolle also explained that a vaccinated population offers benefits even to those who are not vaccinated because widespread immunization reduces the circulation of the virus in the rest of the community.
"I very, very strongly oppose this bill," Stolle said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease and that at least half of all sexually active people will acquire the virus in their lifetime. The virus is the main cause of cervical cancer and can also cause other less common forms of cancer and genital warts. The FDA has approved two HPV vaccines -- both of which the CDC recommends as safe and effective.
Del. Jeion A. Ward (D-Hampton), who in 2007 sponsored a House bill mandating the HPV vaccine, also urged the House to reject the bill, invoking her own granddaughter.
"This bill is one of the most important bills to me that's ever come through this body," Ward said. "I know that this vaccine will save lives. I know that cervical cancer is the second-most common type of cancer in the world. If you have ever seen a woman die from cervical cancer, I'm sure think you will understand why this legislation is unbelievably disheartening to me."
Chances are the bill will not survive long if it leaves the House, according to Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax). Saslaw said the measure that finally passed the General Assembly was a bill with an opt-out provision sponsored by Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) in the Senate and former Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News) in the House.
-- Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.
| January 20, 2011; 6:24 PM ET
Categories: Fredrick Kunkle, General Assembly 2011, House of Delegates
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