JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Senate gave first-round approval Tuesday to a new program that would inform families of sixth-grade girls about a vaccine against a virus that can cause cervical cancer and pay for the vaccinations if their families cannot afford it.
The vaccinations for human papillomavirus wouldn't be mandatory, but parents would be asked to tell the state whether their daughters are being immunized. The state then would track immunization rates.
The information sent to parents would explain how the virus is transmitted, describe symptoms and warn against its link to cervical cancer.
The human papillomavirus is transmitted through sexual contact. Symptoms can include genital warts, though often there are no symptoms. Women are generally diagnosed after an abnormal Pap smear exam. There is currently no way to screen men for the virus.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 3,870 women will die from cervical cancer nationwide this year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the human papillomavirus vaccine in 2006.
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education estimates there are 40,000 sixth-grade girls statewide and that just over one-third would pay for the vaccines with private insurance. It costs $120.50 for each dose and takes three doses for the vaccination.
The total state cost for the program is estimated at $2.3 million, but at least one Republican leader said he thinks it would be more expensive than that.
In recent years, numerous states have considered whether to require vaccines for the virus. Many states have moved toward voluntary programs rather than required vaccinations. Last year, Virginia approved a law mandating the vaccines, but this year delayed that until 2010.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry raised eyebrows last year when he issued an executive order to require the vaccine for girls entering the sixth grade. Outraged lawmakers later passed legislation barring state officials from following through on that.
Human papillomavirus is SB778
On the Net:
American Cancer Society: http://www.cancer.org