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Published: Thursday, 12/14/2006

Lawmaker wants Ohio to require vaccinations

Brown Brown

This week, Michigan could become the first state in the nation to require vaccination against the virus that causes cervical cancer.

If a Toledo legislator has her way, Ohio will be the second.

A bill introduced Tuesday by Democratic state Rep. Edna Brown would require all Ohio sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against the forms of human papilloma virus that most often lead to cervical cancer.

The disease kills 3,700 women in the United States every year and nearly a quarter-million worldwide.

The Michigan House of Representatives is expected to pass a vaccination bill today and send it back to the Senate for approval of some changes made in the House, said Elizabeth Wudyka, a legislative aide to Michigan Rep. Edward Gaffney, a Republican from Wayne County.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Bev Hammerstrom (R., Temperance) was approved by

the Michigan Senate in September.

"Word is that they will do it, although nobody can say with 100 percent certainty," Ms. Wudyka said.

"I would love for us to be the second state to pass this," Ms. Brown said yesterday. "I believe we have a responsibility to make sure girls are vaccinated against cervical cancer, just as we already make sure they are protected against the mumps and chicken pox."

Although Ms. Brown said the Ohio bill is unlikely to pass this legislative session, which ends Dec. 19, "by introducing it now, we'll have it ready to go immediately in January, when the new session starts."

"Introducing this is a good idea, raising awareness that a shot can prevent cancer in women,'' said Dr. David Grossman, director of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department, which offers the three-shot immunization.

The shots cost more than $150 per dose, but Ms. Brown said making vaccination mandatory means more insurance providers, as well as Medicaid, will cover the cost.

The Ohio bill includes an opt-out provision for parents unwilling to vaccinate their daughters on medical, religious, or philosophical grounds.

Allowing people to opt out of the vaccination would make the bill palatable to more legislators, Ms. Brown said.

The possibility of vaccines against cervical cancer opened up last summer when the Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasi, which is manufactured by Merck & Co., of New Jersey.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccinations for girls before they become sexually active.

Contact Jenni Laidman at: jenni@theblade.com or 419-724-6507.

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