Thursday, February 21, 2008

HB 396, the HPV Vaccine bill

Yesterday we voted on HB 396, a bill to require girls 9 and 10 years old to get a vaccine for HPV, human papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted disease. This virus is one cause of cervical cancer. It passed on a mostly party line vote of 56-37, with 6 Representatives not voting.

This has been a contentious bill for the last 2 years. Last year the bill mandated recieving the vaccine before going to school, this years version allowed a parent to opt in or out. Therefore this years version was better, in my mind. But not good enough to vote for.

There was a good, and mostly respectful, debate on the topic. There is much to learn and many different opinions on this bill. If you are interested in the issue, I encourage you to go to the KET web site and watch the debate for yourself.

Here is my main problem with the bill. The first sentence of the bill is as follows:

"All parents, guardians, and other persons having care, custody, or control of any child shall have the child immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, poliomyelitis, pertussis, measles, rubella, mumps, hepatitis B,[ and] haemophilis influenzae disease, and human papillomavirus in accordance with testing and immunization schedules established by regulations of the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. "

I have put the change in bold. The reason we require students to be immunized for these diseases before they are allowed in school is that we don't need them spreading these diseases to others. This requirement is meant to lessen the risk of communicating these diseases in the close confines of schools. Schools should be a place of learning, and not having to worry about whether or not the other students have measles. HPV is not easily communicable, it requires sexual contact for the transmission. Therefore this requirement is outside the bounds of why we originally began requiring students to be immunized; not just for their own good but the good of others around them. This sets a dangerous precedent of the government telling you what medical treatments you have to take for your own good. There is also the issue of the $1.3 million dollar cost to the state when we are cutting many other services.

Now, if you have a daughter between 9 and 25 years old, I encourage you to look into getting her this vaccine. It may be the difference between life and death. But I want it to be an individual choice, not the government's.