Virginia Governor to sign mandatory HPV vaccine bill

Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine told the Associated Press on Thursday that he would sign legislation requiring all sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), the sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. If Kaine does sign the bill, Virginia would become the second state, after Texas, to mandate the vaccine, and the first to do so through legislative action. Kaine, a Democrat, said he wanted to make sure a provision in the bill that allows parents to review information about the vaccine and exempt their daughters was generous enough “for a parent to opt out of this without having to jump through hoops.” If signed into law, the bill would not go into effect until October 2008, making the 2009 school year the first when girls would be required to receive the vaccine. Currently, Merck’s Gardasil is the only FDA approved HPV vaccine on the market. In early February, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, signed an order making Texas the first state to require schoolgirls be vaccinated against HPV. Perry however sidestepped the legislature in ordering the vaccine for girls in that state and lawmakers there are considering overturning the order. Last month, Merck said it would stop lobbying states to pass laws requiring preteen girls be vaccinated against cervical cancer, following a growing backlash among parents, healthcare providers and consumer groups, Merck’s aggressive lobbying campaign was intended to bolster sales of Gardasil, which was approved last year. The vaccine provides protection against the two strains of HPV thought to cause a majority of cervical cancer cases.