January 26, 2012 — A Virginia House committee on Tuesday passed a bill (HR 1112) that would eliminate a state mandate that girls receive vaccinations against the human papillomavirus before entering sixth grade, the Washington Times reports (Sherfinski, Washington Times, 1/24). The committee's approval sends the bill to the House floor, with a vote as early as Friday (AP/Washington Post, 1/24).
In 2007, Virginia became the first state to enact such a requirement. The law allows parents to decline the vaccinations for essentially any reason (Washington Times, 1/24).
Del. Kathy Byron (R), the bill's sponsor, said, "'Opt-out' is never a choice for parents in my mind because there are too many times that the parents really are not aware" of the option. She said the best policy would be to leave the choice of vaccination "entirely with parents and not have government get in the middle of it." Conservatives also have said the law encourages casual premarital sex.
Del. Chris Stolle, a gynecologist and the only Republican on the committee who wants to maintain the law, noted that 6.2 million U.S. women contract HPV each year and that 10,000 of them develop cervical cancer. Stolle said, "We mandate a whole slew of immunizations for our children ... and we don't leave it up to the parents," adding, "What's the difference between HPV and these other things we mandate?" (AP/Washington Post, 1/24).