Bills would repeal HPV vaccine requirement

In 2007, the General Assembly passed a law requiring girls to be vaccinated against the cancer-causing human papillomavirus before entering the sixth grade.

Now, two measures before the General Assembly would repeal that requirement: House Bill 95, proposed by Delegate Bob Marshall, R-Manassas; and HB 1112, sponsored by Republican Delegates Kathy Byron of Lynchburg and Timothy Hugo of Centreville.

“It’s strange that we would mandate this,” Marshall said.

Some parents object to having their daughters take the HPV vaccine, usually sold under the brand name Gardasil.

“You are putting parents against the power of the state,” Marshall said. “This is pressuring the parents, and I don’t think it should be done.”

Virginia’s HPV vaccination requirement has a lenient opt-out clause: Girls can forgo the vaccine if their parents make that decision after reviewing materials describing the link between HPV and cervical cancer.

But HB 95 and HB 1112 would take the HPV law off the books entirely. Both bills have been referred to the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions.

No action has been taken yet on Marshall’s bill.

But on Thursday, a subcommittee took up HB 1112 and voted 6-2 in favor of the measure. It now goes to the full committee for consideration.

HPV is spread by skin-to-skin and sexual contact. It can cause cervical cancer in women and genital warts in both men and women. In 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil as an effective vaccine against HPV. Medical experts recommended that girls receive the vaccine at ages 11 or 12 for the best protection.

Gardasil is given in three doses over six months. Each dose costs about $130, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the United States, nearly 10,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and 3,700 women die.

Byron opposed Virginia’s HPV vaccination law and has campaigned to overturn it. She said that the vaccine has not been adequately tested and that the General Assembly acted hastily in 2007.

If Virginia keeps its HPV vaccination requirement, Marshall has proposed another measure – HB 824. It would make the state liable for any injury caused by the vaccine.

Last year, Byron’s bill to repeal the HPV vaccination law passed the House but died in the Senate Health and Education Committee, which at the time was dominated by Democrats. This year, because of GOP gains in the Senate, Republicans control that committee.

How they voted
Subcommittee No. 1 of the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions voted 6-2 on Thursday to recommend approval of House Bill 1112, which would repeal Virginia’s law requiring girls to get the HPV vaccine.

All five Republicans on the subcommittee voted for the bill: Delegates Richard Bell of Staunton, Scott Garrett of Lynchburg, John O’Bannon of Henrico, Christopher Peace of Mechanicsville and Margaret Ransone of Kinsale. They were joined by Democratic Delegate Algie Howell of Norfolk.

Voting against HB 1112 were Democratic Delegates Joseph Morrissey of Richmond and Lionell Spruill of Chesapeake.
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