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California lawmakers continue to fine tune a plan to require Gardasil vaccinations against human papillomavirus, which is transmitted by sexual contact, for all pre-teen girls in both private and public schools in the state, worrying many parents due to California’s reputation as a leader in such decisions.
Assembly Bill 16, which would mandate injections of the Merck & Co. vaccine to protect against the sexually transmitted disease, remains under review at the Senate committee level, having been endorsed by both the Health and Education committees following its approval in the state Assembly.
As WND has reported, the effort to make the vaccine mandatory has been sweeping through state legislatures across the nation, largely pushed by women lawmakers who are part of the Women in Government organization, to which Merck contributed financially.
The campaign has been so widespread the National Conference of State Legislatures set up a special website just to track and update the various campaigns.
In California, Karen England, executive director of Capital Resource Institute, said the plan just isn’t right.
“It is terribly disappointing that the state assembly decided to force a dangerous, inadequately tested STD vaccine on 11 year-old girls,” she said.
Parents of autistic children also criticize the measure, citing studies that indicate childhood vaccination may be a contributing factor causing the debilitating disease.
WND also has reported that the Merck vaccine has been tied to three deaths, and more than 1,600 adverse reactions.
Since AB16 was introduced last year it has gone through several iterations, as amendments were added and dropped, mostly due to opposition from advocates of parental rights.
The latest version requires parents to be notified of opt-out rights, broadened the scope of the vaccine to include all federally required immunizations, and introduced a provision for all vaccines to be on the market at least five years prior to being considered for classification as “mandatory vaccines.” Previously, the bill did not require schools to notify parents of the vaccinations at all.
The changes have been enough to cause conservative public policy organization California Family Council to change its opinion of the bill: from negative to neutral. Now, the organization calls the bill “vastly improved, though not perfect” since “the best bills would always place children under the authority of their parents or guardian.”
Monetary costs are also significant – adding Gardasil to the list of required vaccines would make taxpayers contribute an extra $90 million to administer the vaccine to all Californian pre-teen girls.
Around the rest of the nation already, several states have adopted interim measures, such as making funding available for non-mandatory injections already. In Texas, Gov. Rick Perry made Gardasil a mandatory vaccination by executive order over the protests of the Texas State Legislature, which later overturned the order.
WND also reported earlier a researcher who worked on a vaccine for HPV is warning it hasn’t been tested on young girls, is “silly” for states to mandate, and in a worst-case scenario even could increase cervical cancer rates.
Researcher Diane M. Harper said giving such a vaccine to 11-year-olds “is a great big public health experiment.”
The target of the vaccine is cervical cancer, since studies show that those who have HPV have a higher chance of later developing cervical cancer. However, opponents note that such cancers develop most often in older women, while the plan is to require girls as young as 11 or 12 years old to be inoculated. They cite the lack of evidence that the vaccine would have an impact later in life.
They also question the imposition of a vaccine against a condition that is spread only by sexual contact.
Merck’s vaccine was approved last year by the Food and Drug Administration, but a doctor at the Centers for Disease Control’s advisory committee on immunizations has reported that while the vaccine may be helpful, it should not be mandatory.
Officials with the Abstinence Clearinghouse noted in a position paper that groups including the Texas Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, and the American Academy of Environmental Medicine have come out publicly against mandatory vaccination.
“The reasoning of these medical associations is clear. They are not opposed to medical progress, and certainly support all efforts to combat life-threatening diseases. The problem, as these organizations see it, lies in the fact that the drug only went through three and a half years of testing, leaving the medical community somewhat in the dark as to what serious adverse effects might result in the long term,” the group said.
“Along with the potential of serious adverse effects is the question of efficacy. There is evidence that after approximately four years, the vaccine’s potency significantly declines. The long-term value of the vaccine has yet to be determined; if it wears off within six years, will girls and women need to repeat the battery of injections they originally received?” the organization wondered.
“It is negligent to require any person, especially a child, to receive a treatment which might in the future prove to be dangerous,” the group said. “It is pertinent to note that by mandating a vaccine, the state assumes all liability. If it causes harm to patients, to whatever extent, Merck is immune to legal retribution. No state ought to be so ethically or fiscally irresponsible as to mandate this vaccine.”
Leslee Unruh, chief of the Abstinence Clearinghouse, told WND her organization’s research shows that such vaccines actually can increase cervical cancer rates, because women believe they are “protected” by the vaccine, and fail to follow up with their physicians for routine exams.
Michigan was the first state to introduce a plan to require the vaccine to be given to young girls, but the proposal failed. Ohio also considered a failed plan in 2006.
Then in 2007, after Merck’s aggressive lobbying campaign and contributions to WIG, lawmakers in at least 39 states and the District of Columbia worked on sponsoring such plans.
The Merck campaign’s results so far include New Hampshire and South Dakota, which have announced they will provide the vaccine on a voluntary basis, and Virginia’s requirement for the vaccine, although that was heavily marked up with exceptions.
The NCSL also confirms that Colorado also set up a fund to provide the vaccine, Indiana set up a plan to require the vaccinations and New Mexico is requiring that insurance plans cover the costs. A plan there to require the inoculations was vetoed.
In Maryland a plan to require the vaccine was withdrawn, and a similar proposal was killed Mississippi. Utah has approved an awareness campaign.
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Naomi Laine is an editorial assistant for WND