July 20, 2007
By a voice vote late Wednesday evening, the House of Representatives passed a bill banning the use of federal funds for state mandates requiring girls to be vaccinated against the STD human papillomavirus (HPV). The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.), is unlikely to become federal law this year, since there is no companion bill in the Senate.
HPV is the leading cause of cervical cancer. After the vaccine against it, Merck & Co.'s Gardasil, was approved by the Food and Drug Administration last year, some 24 states introduced legislation mandating HPV vaccination for sixth-grade girls. But in many of those states, the bills faltered as evidence surfaced that Merck had lobbied lawmakers to push for mandatory vaccination before FDA approved Gardasil.
The fact that HPV is an STD rather than a communicable disease that is easily spread gave some parents pause. In addition, federal agencies such as CDC support market testing Gardasil before making it mandatory.
"I applaud the development of an HPV vaccine," said Gingrey, an obstetrician and gynecologist. "But for states to mandate vaccination for young women is both unprecedented and unacceptable. Whether or not girls get vaccinated against HPV is a decision for parents and physicians, not politicians and bureaucrats."
To date, Virginia is the only state to mandate the vaccine.