Bill to end HPV vaccine mandate advances 

The Virginia House of Delegates rejected a proposal Thursday to require state health officials to continue to give parents information about a vaccine to prevent a virus that can lead to cervical cancer.

Del. Chris Stolle, R-Virginia Beach, offered the idea as an amendment to legislation repealing Virginia's mandate that girls receive vaccinations against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, by the sixth grade. Only one other state has such a requirement, and Virginia's law includes a liberal opt-out provision.

HPV is spread through sexual contact. Some conservative lawmakers believe the vaccine facilitates casual premarital sex and say the mandate usurps parental rights. Del. Kathy Byron, R-Campbell, and sponsor of the bill to repeal the law, said the immunization decision "should be the sole prerogative of families and their physicians."

Stolle, a gynecologist, said that even if the mandate is repealed, state health officials should still be required to send information to parents.

"This amendment in no way does any harm to this bill," Stolle said. "This amendment just ensures parents continue to receive information about a vaccine for an illness that affects 6.2 million young women each year."

Byron urged her colleagues to reject the amendment.

"It is not our responsibility to become an advertising agency for the drug companies," she said.

Stolle said his amendment dealt with education, not marketing. The House voted 63-34 to reject his proposal, then gave preliminary approval to Byron's bill on a voice vote. The legislation will be on the calendar for a final House vote Friday.

Opponents of the bill have argued that Virginia requires vaccinations against several other diseases, including polio, tetanus, diphtheria and hepatitis, but Byron has said those diseases are spread through casual contact while HPV is spread through sexual intercourse.

"There's a suggestion these young girls will be vaccinated, and somehow that will promote promiscuity," Del. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond, said during Thursday's floor debate. "That's nonsense."

A U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee recommended in 2006 that the vaccine be given to all 11- and 12-year-old girls, and it is approved for girls as young as 9.

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