Will VA Governor Mandate HPV Vaccine?

"Gov. Timothy M. Kaine expressed concern Tuesday about legislation that would require young girls to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus. “The challenge is, Should we mandate it? We mandate a lot of vaccines for school children,” [Kaine] said. “We don’t want them to infect each other with infectious diseases. This kind of goes an additional step, because it’s not something that we’re mandating to stop infection among school kids.....So the thing I’m going to look at on this bill is the ability for parents and youngsters to opt out of the mandate. Is it a generous, kind of wide-ranging opt-out?” he asked.... Barbara Loe Fisher , president and co-founder of the National Vaccine Information Center, advocates giving parents the right to opt in rather than opt out of mandates. “I don’t think a lot of people understand that they do actually have the opt-out option,” Fisher said. Families, she added, “should be able to make an informed and voluntary decision......“I really hope that the governor of Virginia carefully examines what this is going to cost Virginia to mandate this vaccine for every 11-year-old girl,” Fisher said. “It could be a very costly mistake.” - Amy Coutee, Virginian-Pilot, Feb. 28, 2007


"Del. Phillip A. Hamilton (R-Newport News), sponsor of the legislation, said he is not sure how the governor could make the opt-out provision any stronger. "Right now, parents are given information, and if they choose not to do it, they don't have to do it. They just have to sign a form so the health department knows they opted out," Hamilton said. "I just don't know how much broader you can make it." Merck and Co., a New Jersey- based pharmaceutical maker, received federal approval in June to sell the vaccine, which is called Gardasil. Merck then began a nationwide lobbying campaign to try to get states to mandate the vaccine. At least 20 states are considering doing so. But Merck suspended the campaign two weeks ago amid questions about whether profit, rather than public health, is guiding the debate. Concerns have also been raised about potential side effects." - Tim Craig, Washington Post, Feb. 28, 2007


"Virginia's governor says he will sign legislation requiring pre-teen female students to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. Virginia would become the second state to mandate the vaccine for the human papillomavirus, or HPV, and the first to do it through legislative action. The governor of Texas sidestepped the Legislature and ordered the shots for girls there, but lawmakers are considering overriding that order." - Associated Press, March 1, 2007


"Governor Timothy M. Kaine today announced that Merck & Co., Inc. will invest $57 million to expand the role its Elkton facility plays in producing GARDASIL®, Merck’s cervical cancer vaccine.....This announcement not only increases Merck’s investment in Virginia, it provides a vital vaccine for women’s health,” said Governor Kaine. “Implementing this new process at the Elkton plant shows the confidence Merck has in Virginia’s positive business climate and dedicated workforce....The company’s Elkton facility employs more than 700 people with $60 million in annual payroll....Governor Kaine approved a $700,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program, an incentive available to existing Virginia companies." - December 14, 2006 Press Release, Office of Virginia Governor Tim Kaine

Barbara Loe Fisher Commentary:

Three days ago (Feb. 28) Governor Tim Kaine (D) justifiably expressed concern about signing a bill that mandates every 11 year old girl living in Virginia get HPV vaccine before attending sixth grade. He said he was worried about the fact that HPV infection was not transmitted in the school setting and that "we mandate a lot of vaccines for school children"and that "the opt- out provision to protect kids and parents should be generous" so parents "don't have to jump through hoops" to opt-out of the mandate. Today (Mar. 2), Associated Press is reporting that Governor Kaine will sign the bill without amending it, making Virginia the first state to mandate HPV vaccine after going through the state legislature rather than by executive order a la Texas Governor Rick Perry. Hopefully, this is just an unconfirmed rumor and that Gov. Kaine will not compel Virginia taxpayers to spend millions of dollars to purchase Merck's HPV vaccine, GARDASIL, in an attempt to prevent less than one quarter of one percent of women, who may become chronically infected with HPV and fail to be diagnosed with pap screens, from getting cervical cancer.

Earlier this week the CDC published new HPV infection prevalence data which revealed that one quarter of all American girls and women aged 14 to 59 years are infected with HPV of any type. However, only 2 percent of them are infected with HPV types 16 and 18, which are the only high risk HPV types associated with cervical cancer included in Merck's GARDASIL. (Most sexually active individuals become asymptomatically infected with HPV at some point in their lives but 90 percent clear the infection from their bodies. Among high risk factors for chronic HPV infection are co-infection with herpes, chlamydia and HIV; smoking; long term oral contraceptive use; multiple births and poverty.)

It is well known that Merck campaign contributions coincided with a Feb. 2, 2007 Executive Order by the Governor of Texas that mandated the vaccine for all little girls in Texas. Less well known is the fact that on Dec. 14, 2006, Merck announced a $57 million dollar expansion of its plant in Elkton, Virginia (with an annual payroll of $60 million) to produce GARDASIL. Gov. Kaine approved a $700,000 performance-based grant from the Virginia Investment Partnership (VIP) program for Merck to improve the Elkton plant to make it ready to produce GARDASIL ( Click here to view the Dec 14, 2006 Press Release)

Although Gov. Kaine and many of the Virginia legislators sponsoring the HPV vaccine mandate for all little girls in Virginia may have consulted their consciences in making this decision for Virginia families, unfortunately Virginia politicians appear to have something in common with the Governor of Texas: financial incentive from Merck to vote for an HPV vaccine mandate. When citizens look at new vaccine mandates like this one, they see the heavy hand of the pharmaceutical industry influencing public health policy in America.

Parents are growing weary of watching lawmakers add every new vaccine that industry produces for children to state vaccine laws. Why are our schools becoming centers for forced vaccination rather than centers for education? Why should parents and their children be placed on a government monitored List of names identifying those who "opt- out" of getting HPV vaccine? What will it mean in the future to have your name and your child's name on that List? Whose business is it if parents choose not to give their 11 year old daughters a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease that cannot be transmitted in the school classroom?

There is too little known about the safety and potential long term effectiveness of HPV vaccine to mandate it for anyone. Lawmakers who vote to mandate this vaccine will have made a mistake, which may cost them and the citizens of their states dearly.









1 comment:

C Harding said...

Thanks so much for adding this post. This helped me to understand some additional factors that have "influenced" the passage of this bill. I live in Virginia and am writing an analysis on this policy for one of my classes. During the 2007 legistlative session, I did't know that this law had even been proposed. Del. Robert G Marshall has pre-filed a bill that will remove the mandate if it is passed. We'll see what happens. Thanks again.