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Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Published: Tuesday, 3/6/2007

The cervical cancer menace

OHIO Gov. Ted Strickland opposes a law requiring girls entering the sixth grade to be vaccinated against the virus that can cause cervical cancer, which suggests he does not understand how common human papillomavirus (HPV) infections are.

A new report shows that more than a quarter of all women between ages 14 and 59 are infected with the sexually transmitted virus.

That's why he should support Toledo state Rep. Edna Brown's efforts to make vaccination mandatory.

For now, the governor's opposition will make it harder for Ms. Brown to get a hearing on the bill she introduced last week. Mr. Strickland sees problems with requiring the vaccine - though parents could opt out of the program - and says there are questions about at what age it should be administered.

A survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention demonstrates the importance of early vaccination. It shows an astounding infection rate among women between 20 and 24: nearly 45 percent.

Nor is sixth grade too soon: The infection rate was about one in four among teenage females.

Ms. Brown hopes to change the governor's mind. It might help to tell him that out of more than 11,000 new HPV cases diagnosed each year in the United States, nearly 4,000 women die. Worldwide, the death toll is 300,000 annually.

It was major news last spring when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a three-shot vaccination for females from 9 to 26, prompting concerns that young girls would feel it was safe to become sexually active.

But that makes no more sense than denying condoms to teenaged boys for the same reason.

Last fall it appeared that Michigan would become the first state to make the HPV vaccine mandatory. But Republican legislators defeated the bill in a lame-duck December session, yielding to the argument that it would intrude on families' privacy. Texas became the first, effective next year.

Parents would still have the right to refuse the vaccination for their daughter, though we can't imagine why they would want to.

Even so, it's one thing for a parent to object - it's quite another for a public official to withhold support for a life-saving health issue.



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