HPV Vaccine Bill Could Provoke Controversy

March 28, 2012

Investigative Reports

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VaccinationAn S.C. House bill to have the state provide optional vaccinations to middle school girls against a sexually transmitted disease known as the HPV virus could prove to be controversial.

A similar proposal in Texas to mandate the vaccine drew national attention in September.

State Rep. Bakari Sellers, D-Bamberg, is chief sponsor of the South Carolina bill. Reps. Kevin Johnson, D-Clarendon, and Joan Brady, R-Richland, are co-sponsoring it.

The bill, titled the “Cervical Cancer Prevention Act,” is scheduled for a hearing before a House subcommittee at 9 a.m. Thursday.

The proposed legislation directs the Department of Health and Environmental Control to offer a vaccine against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, to female students enrolling in seventh grade in all schools, public or private, in the state.

The vaccine would be voluntary, authorized by parents or legal guardians.

A sexually transmitted disease, HPV is a leading cause of cervical cancer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says HPV “is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States. At least 50% of sexually active people will have genital HPV at some time in their lives.”

The CDC site also says “HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.”

Under the bill, the South Carolina program would begin next school year. And it would be contingent upon DHEC receiving state and federal funding to fully cover the costs.

The bill also would require DHEC to develop brochures about the optional vaccine and distribute them to all school districts, which in turn would have to provide the fliers to the parents or guardians of all sixth-grade girls at the beginning of each school year.

Regardless of this bill’s prospects for passing, it has the potential to provoke an emotionally charged controversy.

Reach Ward at (803) 254-4411 or eric@thenerve.org.