State Support for Cervical Cancer Vaccine

September 15, 2006

Kudos to Michigan legislators. According to the Detroit News, a bill introduced Tuesday in the Michigan Senate by Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, R-Temperance, would require all girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against cervical cancer.

“Recent studies have shown that cervical cancer may be one of the few cancers that is actually preventable,” Hammerstrom said. “This vaccine will serve as our most effective tool in the fight against cervical cancer.”

The Detroit News does its readers a disservice, however, with the headline: “Mich. may force girls to get vaccine” — since the proposed bill would simply add the cervical cancer vaccine to a list of other required vaccinations, including diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis; polio; measles, mumps and rubella; Hepatitis B; and chickenpox. Moreover, parents could opt out for medical, religious or philosophical reasons.

Some of the parents quoted aren’t thrilled about government intervening in personal medical decisions. And conservative religious groups have raised objections (previously mentioned here) about the appropriateness of the vaccine for pre-teens.

Which just goes to show why it’s important for Michigan to take this step. As the Detroit News notes:

The vaccine is recommended by the Federal Advisory Commission on Immunization Practices for girls who are 11 and 12, and as appropriate for other age groups.

The American Cancer Society estimates that about 9,700 girls and women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in the United States this year and that 3,700 will die from it. The vaccine, called Gardasil, protects against strains of the human papillomavirus that cause most cervical cancer cases. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection.

“The wonderful thing about this (vaccine) is that, in trials, it was 100 percent effective against HPV16 and HPV18, and those two account for 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer,” Hammerstrom said.

Proving prevention isn’t partisan, all of Michigan’s 11 female state senators support the bill.

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