House votes to end HPV vaccine in public schools
The House of Delegates has voted to repeal a law that provides vaccinations for the human papillomavirus or HPV in public schools. Craig Carper reports.
The human papillomavirus, or HPV, is the most common sexually-transmitted infection worldwide and is the overwhelming cause of cervical cancer. In 2006, a vaccine was developed for preteen girls that could protect against two of the most prevalent strains of the virus. In 2007, the General Assembly voted to make the Gardasil vaccine a part of the standard vaccinations offered in schools to girls aged 11 and 12. An opt-out provision was provided for parents who did not want their daughters to receive the vaccine. Just over 80 percent of parents have decided to accept this opt-out provision thus far.
Republican Delegate Kathy Byron of Campbell is the patron of a bill that would repeal the practice of offering the vaccine in public schools.
Byron: The vaccine raises several concerns; first, the long-term safety and effectiveness of the vaccine are unknown and serious adverse events reported shortly after the vaccine’s approval raise questions about its short-term safety as well. You’ll hear reports on both sides of the aisle from doctors. There’s a lot of them 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 that’s a decision that shouldn’t be made by the state. It’s something that should be made by the parents and that when they go in for their other vaccinations that they are required by law to take, that their doctors will jump at the opportunity to let them know that their daughters should get a vaccine that they’re convinced is going to help prevent cancer in the future.
Republican Delegate Chris Stolle of Virginia Beach is an OBGYN and strongly opposes the elimination of the vaccine in public schools.
Stolle: This vaccine does only target two strains of the HPV virus. However, those two strains address or combat 75 percent. I challenge most physicians to find a treatment that works 75 percent of the time. But in addition to treating cervical cancer 75 percent of the time, it addresses vaginal cancer 60 percent of the time and vulvar cancer 50 percent of the time. This is a life-saving intervention for your daughters. The safety profile of this vaccine is the same as every other safety profile or similar to other safety profiles for other vaccines.
HPV causes 99 percent of all cervical cancer, greater than 99 percent. We have an opportunity to combat 75 percent of all cervical cancer. There is no cure for HPV, only prevention. If we lived in a world where we were all abstinent until marriage and monogamous thereafter, there would be no HPV, but that’s not the world we live in. The 2002 national survey of family growth, which can be found on the Centers for Disease Control website, shows that 24 percent, 1 in 4 females in the United States, are sexually active by the age of 15; an additional 40 percent by the age of 16 and 70 percent of females in the United States are sexually active by the age of 18. This vaccine is directed at those young women. The vaccine must be given before the first sexual contact to be effective. With no cure and control of the disease unlikely through abstinence, we’re currently left with a single choice to battle this very, very terrible disease and that is the vaccine.
It is clear that if we pass this bill, there will be women in this state who do not receive this vaccine, an increased number of women who do not receive this vaccine. One quarter of those women will have HPV by the time they're twenty-five. A portion of those women will die from cervical cancer, and that is a fact.
The bill to repeal eventually passed the House 61 to 38. It is likely to face an uphill battle in the Senate. January is Cervical Cancer Awareness month.
Craig Carper, WCVE News, Capitol Square