tampabay.com

HPV vaccine vote stalled in committee

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published March 21, 2007


TALLAHASSEE - A bill to include the world's first cervical cancer vaccine in required school immunizations stalled Tuesday, after a member of a House education committee failed to water down the measure.

One senator pushing a similar bill in his chamber said he is bothered by the development.

"We're going to have to meet with our House counterparts to see what we have to do," said Sen. Jim King, R-Jacksonville. "The longer you stall, the more women are going to die. That's our pitch."

The House K-12 committee, led by Republican Rep. Anitere Flores, R-Miami-Dade, was scheduled to vote on Tampa Rep. Ed Homan's bill, which would make the vaccine a requirement starting in fall 2011 for girls attending middle schools.

Dr. Homan's proposal, like the Senate version, allows families to opt out of the Gardasil vaccine, which protects against four types of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus that cause about 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. It also would require that schools educate students and families about the vaccine, starting in fall 2009.

But before the committee could vote on the bill, committee Vice Chairwoman Marti Coley, R-Marianna, abruptly postponed the vote. She did so immediately after Flores' attempt to remove the requirement from Homan's legislation died on a 4-4 tie.

Flores wanted to require only that middle schools educate families about the vaccine's availability. Her proposal would have listed Gardasil on the state Health Department's list of recommended not required school immunizations.

"The chair was hoping she would have five votes," Homan said later. "The deal was not that if she lost, we would table the bill. I'm disappointed."

Flores said she asked for the delay because she didn't think Homan's proposal had the five votes needed to move out of committee.

She denied the postponement was a tactic to keep the HPV bill from a final chamber vote before the session ends May 4.

Cervical cancer kills more than 3,000 women in the U.S. each year.

"How can we afford not to pass this?" King said. His bill, with co-sponsor Mike Fasano of New Port Richey, goes before its first Senate committee today.

Shannon Colavecchio-Van Sickler can be reached at (850) 224-7263 or svansickler@sptimes.com.