RICHMOND — It’s a two-word change to state law, Del. Patrick Hope, D-Arlington, told a House subcommittee this morning, but it would do much more than that.
By deleting the words “for females” from the statute requiring parents to vaccinate children against the human papillomavirus, it would expand the mandate to boys and ensure Medicaid pays for the vaccine for those who can’t afford it, Hope said. Most health insurance plans already cover the shot for males and females, he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year recommended vaccinating boys against the disease, Hope said. Doing so helps protect them from HPV symptoms, from cancer and from spreading the disease to their partners once they become sexually active, he added.
After lengthy debate, the General Assembly two years ago passed the contentious mandate, but with a loophole that allows parents to opt out of the vaccine once their doctor provides information on HPV’s risks.
Several medical groups, including the state chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, supported Hope’s bill (HB1614) and said many doctors already advise parents to vaccinate their boys. The Family Foundation, a socially conservative advocacy group, and the Virginia Catholic Conference opposed the measure.
“Doctors are already doing this and working with parents on this, and that’s the way that it should be done,” said Chris Freund, The Family Foundation’s vice president of policy and communications. “And the General Assembly doesn’t need to be involved.”
Others cited concerns about adding additional confusion to the pseudo-mandate and about possible long-term effects of the vaccine.
“This is something that should be covered,” Hope said. “This clarifies for people who are poor and can’t afford it.”
The House Health, Welfare and Institutions subcommittee unanimously voted down the proposal.
– Kathy Adams, The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot