- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

The House this week passed a bill that bars the use of federal funds by states to ensure that girls are vaccinated against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), before they can be admitted to school.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Phil Gingrey, Georgia Republican, and a obstetrician/gynecologist, passed late Wednesday night on a voice vote. While the bill is unlikely to become federal law this year as there is no Senate companion bill, it is a measure of the country’s mood toward mandating vaccines for children.

The HPV virus is a leading cause of cervical cancer, whose prevention through blanket vaccinations has been the topic of a nationwide debate since Merck Co. introduced Gardasil last year. Public resistance to the vaccine surfaced as states — Texas being the first — began to require that children get vaccinated before entering school.

The debate centered on the fact that HPV is a sexually transmitted rather than communicable disease, meaning children cannot get it simply by coughing on one another.

Backlash against Merck built as evidence surfaced that the company lobbied state lawmakers before federal approval of the vaccine and that federal agencies, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, would prefer the vaccine be market tested for a short time before becoming mandatory.

“I applaud the development of an HPV vaccine,” said Mr. Gingrey. “But for states to mandate vaccination for young women is both unprecedented and unacceptable. Whether or not girls get vaccinated against HPV is a decision for parents and physicians, not politicians and bureaucrats.”

Since the Food and Drug Administration approved the HPV vaccine, at least 24 state legislatures introduced bills to mandate vaccinations for sixth-grade girls. In many of those states, the legislation stagnated in the face of public outcry. And after the Texas Legislature overturned Gov. Rick Perry’s executive order mandating the vaccine, Virginia remains the lone state to mandate the vaccine.

“Parents around the country will stand up and cheer when they hear about this amendment to keep the HPV vaccine decision in the hands of parents and their doctors,” said Barbara Fisher, president of the National Vaccine Information Center. “Parents are busy taking care of their children and don’t have time to camp out in their state legislatures and make their voices heard like drug company lobbyists and state health officials

In other news

A groundbreaking project intended to pave the way for electronic health records in the work force is in jeopardy.

Many experts say one key element in lowering health care costs is to more rapidly bring electronic medical records into the fold. That would dramatically cut down on repetitive, pricey procedures, such as PET and CAT scans.

Earlier this year, a group of companies led by Intel announced an ambitious plan to provide electronic health records to more than 2.5 million people. But legal troubles with the company that was chosen to build a massive database of medical records could derail the seminal project.

The companies contracted Omnimedix to build the electronic database in which the medical records would be kept.

But, according to reports, each party is behind schedule. Omnimedix is apparently not meeting markers laid out by Dossia while the coalition, Dossia, was supposed to grow to 10 members by mid-2007. Currently only six companies are publicly involved.

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