West Virginia bill proposes mandatory HPV vaccination

Girls entering sixth grade would be required to get vaccinations to protect them against human papilloma virus (HPV) under legislation proposed in West Virginia’s state capitol, the Associated Press reports. Delegate Bonnie Brown, D-Kanawha, promoted legislation Tuesday that would mandate vaccination against the disease. According to a study released Tuesday by Women in Government, a non-profit, bipartisan organization of female state legislators, West Virginia’s cervical cancer fatality rate is the second highest in the US, behind only Washington, DC. Four women per 100,000 die of cervical cancer in the state every year, according to the study. “It is important that as many girls as possible have access to this lifesaving technology,” Brown said during a news conference in Charleston, WV. Resources will be a central question for the legislation, the AP reported. The vaccines cost $120 per dose and the course of treatment requires three doses. This year, there are 10,235 sixth grade girls in West Virginia, according to the state Dept. of Education. At $360 per course of treatment, that’s a bill of more than $3.6 million. The vaccine, Merck’s Gardasil, prevents infections from the sexually transmitted virus HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, genital lesions and genital warts. Gardasil was approved in June for girls as young as 9 and a government advisory panel later recommended that the vaccine be given before girls become sexually active. About 6 million Americans are diagnosed annually with HPV. The American Cancer Society estimates cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 9,700 women nationwide this year and that 3,700 will die. An estimated 70% of cervical cancer cases are caused by HPV. Lawmakers in Maryland and Virginia have also proposed bills similar to the West Virginia legislation. In December, New Hampshire health officials announced plans to offer Gardasil human vaccine free to all girls to help protect them against cervical cancer. The New Hampshire Vaccines for Children program is funded by the federal government and private insurers and offers “no-cost” immunizations to children through age 18. The program also pays to vaccinate children against other diseases, such as hepatitis A and B, polio and measles. A total of $4.8 million has been budgeted for the HPV vaccine for 2007.