California bill which would mandate STD vaccine for sixth grade girls moves forward

Gardasil, a controversial vaccine for the sexually transmitted HPV virus, might soon be given to minors in California without parental consent if the sweeping proposal in a new bill– AB 499– becomes law after a Senate vote this week and a signature from Gov. Brown.

California Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins confirmed Friday that the bill had passed the state Senate Appropriations Committee by a vote of 6 to 3. Supporters expect the bill to be fast-tracked to the Senate floor for a full vote this week and believe that Governor Jerry Brown will sign it into law.

The bill is similar to one that failed in 2007, which would have mandated that all sixth grade California girls be given the Gardasil HPV vaccination. The vaccination has made many headlines recently, because of its controversial role in the administration of Texas governor and GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry.  In 2007, Perry signed an executive order mandating that all sixth grade girls in Texas submit to the controversial vaccination, which had only been approved by the FDA eight months prior. While leading the Republican field in national polls, Perry is facing strong criticism from religious conservatives and civil libertarians in the GOP for the mandate he signed in Texas.

Supporters of the vaccine say it will help protect sexually active girls from a dangerous, cancer-causing virus. Critics have multiple reasons for opposing it. Civil libertarians oppose the mandate as a violation of individual liberty and parents’ rights. Some health activists say the vaccine is a racket for big pharma profits and potentially unsafe.

Religious conservatives are concerned about the moral hazard in vaccinating young children for STDs, potentially sending them the message that it is more safe now to engage in sexual activities, with or without protection. Fiscal conservatives also have a reason to oppose the bill: it’s expensive. According to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s fiscal summary:

“For the 923,000 minors aged 12 through 17… [a] five to ten percent immunization rate for HPV, which is a three-dose series, would result in administrative costs ranging from $1.2 million to $2.5 million in total funds.”

Note that’s just a five to ten percent immunization rate. Critics of the bill want to know why millions of dollars should be taken from California taxpayers and given to pharmaceutical giant, Merck, in exchange for a new, potentially harmful vaccine against a sexually trasmitted disease to be administered to schoolchildren without parental consent.

It’s a good question.