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Senate proposal spreads HPV vaccine message without requiring shots

Years after the Legislature retreated from an effort to require HPV vaccines for middle school girls, one Senate panel has approved a different approach. The measure would require that all students entering the sixth grade receive information about human papilloma virus, a sexually transmitted disease that causes genital warts and about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases, as well as information about a vaccine that can prevent infection.

Unlike the failed 2007 effort, where conservative organizations successfully lobbied against the proposal
supported heavily by vaccinemaker Merck & Co., there was unanimous support during a committee hearing on Wednesday about the new informational approach.

Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, assured his colleagues that SB 1116 doesn't require vaccinations for any students under any circumstances.

"It at least gives them the information that vaccines do currently existing," he said. "... We know that this vaccination is effective against these HPV types."

Though the Senate's Health Regulation Committee approved the measure, it still has two more committee stops and is unlikely to make it to the floor. Meanwhile, the House companion legislation, HB 1051, hasn't be heard by any of the four committees it was assigned.

This isn't the only vaccine-related measure the Senate is considering this year. Language requiring meningitis vaccines for seventh graders was inserted into the budget, which the full Senate is expected to vote on during Thursday's session. However, the House's budget doesn't include the same provision.