New Mexico lawmakers have passed a bill to require that girls in the state entering sixth grade be vaccinated with Merck's HPV vaccine against two strains of human papillomavirus that in rare cases causes cervical cancer, The Associated Press reported today.
Gilbert Gallegos, spokesman for Gov. Bill Richardson said the governor will sign it once he receives the bill, which would be effective in 90 days after it is signed.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted disease. A recent survey shows that 25% of females in the U.S. are currently infected with the virus. About 11,000 new cases of cervical cancer, most of which are induced by the virus, are diagnosed and 3,300 women die from the disease each year in the country.
Earlier, Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order to mandate a statewide vaccination of girls aged 11 and 12 entering sixth grade, which drew criticism from state legislators who said that no emergency exists that warrants such an order for an HPV vaccine.
Many states have been considering legislation to require girls to get vaccinated with the HPV vaccine. Much of the political activities have been tied to Merck's lobbying to the lawmakers and state officials. Earlier, news media reported that the vaccine maker would stop lobbying, but some have recently reported again that the company is still actively lobbying in the state of New York.
Lawmakers in at least 36 states and D.C. have introduced legislation to require, fund or educate the public about the HPV Vaccine and 21 states have introduced legislation to require girls to receive the HPV vaccine for school, according to National Conference of State Legislatures.
Opponents voiced all types of concerns about any legislation to require that young girls to get the Merck's vaccine Gardasil. Some are concerned that vaccinating girls with the HPV vaccine would equivalently give girls a free license for premarital sex. Some are worried that the state intervention would in effect take away parents’ right to making medical decision for their girls. Some worry about the long term safety and efficacy of the HPV vaccine as it was not tested in long term trials. Still, some claimed that any legislation to mandate the HPV vaccine would intrude the family privacy.
Analysts estimated that Merck may earn from the HPV vaccine $1 billion a year without state mandates and up to $3 billion a year with states mandating the vaccination.
A scientist with foodconsumer.org said that the risk of death from cervical cancer is tiny compared to other risks such as risk of deaths from traffic incidents, breast cancer, heart diseases, and drugs and doctors. For instance, females would have a 5 times higher risk of dying from a traffic incident compared to the cervical cancer.
He suggested that those who want to forge ahead to have their girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine need to know the following, which is derived mostly from Merck’s patient background information regarding Gardisal, the HPV vaccine.
The long term efficacy and safety of the vaccine remain unknown. Trials were conducted for a short period. The number of young girls in the trials was small, meaning that anything adverse could occur when the vaccine is applied to millions of young girls.
The vaccine protects against two HPV strains only that are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer.
The vaccine cannot protect every recipient against two HPV strains the vaccine is intended for. Those who receive the vaccine still need to undergo Pap smear screening regularly, which is believed to be highly effective in lowering the risk of death from cervical cancer.
This vaccine does not protect against HPV types that are already in the vaccine recipient. That is why young girls need to get the vaccine before they have any sexual contact.
The vaccine does not protect against other sexually transmitted disease. This means that those vaccinated with the vaccine still need to use other protective measures to protect against other sexually transmitted diseases.
On the other hand, those who decide not to have their girls vaccinated with the HPV vaccine may find the following useful.
Abstinence is the best preventive measure, which can also protect against other diseases.
Condom use can reduce the risk for those who are sexually active.
Good nutrition helps. Early studies have found certain nutrients such vitamin C and folate help clear the virus in the body.
Cervical cancer screening is highly effective. The current screening of cervical cancer for women is believed to reduce the risk of cervical cancer death by 80 percent, according to Angela E Raffle from Public Health Network in the UK, who published her correspondence in The Lancet 2007; 369:367-368 to oppose the compulsory inoculation of the HPV vaccine.
For more ifnormation regarding state legislation on HPV vaccine, visit http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/HPVvaccine.htm#hpvlegis