March 5, 2007

Washington Post Reports On 'Growing Nationwide Effort' To Require HPV Inoculation For Middle-School Age Girls

In the seven months since FDA approved Merck's human papillomavirus vaccine Gardasil, a number of states and Washington, D.C., have introduced legislation that would require middle-school age girls to receive the vaccine, and several other states have announced plans to make the vaccine available at no cost, the Washington Post reports (Harris/Levine, Washington Post, 1/12). Gardasil in clinical trials has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing infection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases. CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices in July 2006 voted unanimously to recommend that girls ages 11 and 12 receive the vaccine (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/10). Earlier this week, the Washington, D.C., City Council introduced a bill that would require girls to receive Gardasil before entering the sixth grade. Mayor Adrian Fenty on Thursday said he supported the legislation. Last week, similar bills were introduced in the Virginia General Assembly and the Maryland Legislature, the Post reports. Other states -- such as California, Kentucky, New Hampshire and South Dakota -- have introduced legislation that would either require the vaccine or make it available at no cost. State efforts to require Gardasil have been criticized by some groups that are concerned it "might encourage promiscuity or infringe on parents' authority over their daughters' health care," according to the Post. Other groups oppose it over general vaccine concerns. However, many groups support the proposals, most of which would allow parents or guardians to request and exemption, in the interest of public health, the Post reports (Washington Post, 1/12). The Texas Legislature also plans to consider two bills (SB 110, HB 215) that would require girls entering the sixth grade to receive Gardasil, but the measure would allow parents to apply for an exemption if they do not want their daughters vaccinated (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/9). According to the Post, almost 10,000 U.S. women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and about a third die from it. Minority and low-income women are disproportionately affected by the disease (Washington Post, 1/12).

Related Opinion Piece
"Everyone needs to take a deep breath, calm down and take a closer look at the 'cutting edge' [Washington, D.C.] proposal" that would require girls to receive Gardasil, Washington Times columnist Adrienne Washington writes in an opinion piece. Washington notes that critics' have said that the vaccine would increase sexual activity among young people or that the district proposal is a "sinister plot reminiscent of forced sterilization or mandatory birth control." She says the criticisms are "knee-jerk reactions [that] fail to look at the potentially lifesaving initiative for what it really is -- a public health issue, not a sexual or racial issue." District City Council member David Catania, who introduced the bill, "should be commended, not condemned for this proposal," Washington writes, concluding that the district should "not allow fear, passion or ignorance [to] sidetrack the necessary debate" (Washington, Washington Times, 1/12).

The 'Ask the Experts' program, which aired on Wednesday and addressed implementation of Gardasil, is available online.

"Reprinted with permission from You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation . © 2005 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.

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