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House council replaces HPV vaccine requirement with pamphlets

After debating the "moral hazards" of vaccinating underage girls against sexually transmitted diseases, House Republicans backed away from mandating shots designed to prevent cervical cancer and plan send middle schoolers home with informational packets instead.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ed Homan, a Tampa Republican, would have required the Gardasil vaccine, which blocks four strains of human papillomavirus shown to cause cervical cancer, for all girls entering the sixth unless parents sent in a signed waiver.

But in a debate lasting more than 90 minutes, opponents challenged the safety of the relatively new vaccine and questioned mandating vaccines linked to sexual activity.

In a narrowly split voice vote, the House Schools & Learning Council approved a substitute proposal by fellow Tampa Republican Rep. Trey Traviesa, requiring only that schools send parents information on the vaccine.

But Michelle Halderman, who testified in favor tof the vaccine requirement after testing positive for one of the cancer-causing HPV strains two weeks ago, questioned the moral overtones of the debate.

"If this were a vaccine that could possible prevent breast cancer, prostate cancer or lung cancer, would here be any hesitancy? Would anyone even think of voting against that vaccine?" the 39-year-old Tallahassee resident asked the council. "Cancer is cancer. And cancer kills."

Homan acknowledged the new proposal "sort of gutted the bill" but added "a piece of cake is better than none."