January 12, 2007
Virginia is one of the first states to join a nationwide effort to prevent cervical cancer.
Seven months ago the federal government approved a vaccine for one of the most common STDs, the human papilloma virus, or HPV.
This virus is the cause of the second most deadliest cancers for women, cervical cancer. The vaccine, called Gardisil, is the first ever to be marketed for cancer prevention.
"This is a new vaccine that has been tested on thousands of women and girls around the world, and has been effective in preventing a bad kind of cancer," said Dr. Anne Schuchat from the Center for Disease Control.
Now, Delegate Philip Hamilton (R-93rd) is pioneering a bill that would make it mandatory for middle school aged girls to get the vaccine. The girls' young age is crucial for the vaccine's success.
"It is important that the vaccine be given to a girl before she becomes sexually active, or else its efficacy falls off, if you already have been exposed to one of the strains of HPV," explained David Catania, councilmen for Washington, DC, who is dealing with a similar bill.
The young age is also controversial. Critics fear the vaccine could actually promote sexual behavior or infringe on parents' authority.
Delegate Hamilton says, critics need to look at it a different way. "I see this, not as a bill about sexual activity, but clearly about public health."
Ten-thousand women in the United States battle cervical cancer every year, and every year, a third of them lose that battle.