Mandatory HPV Vaccine Moves Forward in Iowa


Only two steps remain in Iowa's legislative quest to require insurance companies to provide coverage of vaccinations for the human papillomavirus, the major cause of cervical cancer.

The proposed bill was passed by an 81-16 vote of the Iowa House last week and referred to the Senate Human Resources Committee. All 16 House members opposing the measure were Republicans, six of them women.

Tuesday morning, the Senate committee, chaired by Assistant Majority Leader Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, approved the measure and sent it on to the full Senate floor. The bill will need to pass through the Senate — something that is considered likely — and will need to be signed by Gov. Chet Culver. The law would take affect for third-party payment provider contracts, policies or plans delivered, continued or renewed in the state after Jan. 1, 2009.

"Cervical cancer is preventable," Bolkcom said. "The HPV vaccine is the best defense. This bill will ensure that health insurers make the HPV vaccine available and affordable to Iowa women. I expect the Senate to approve this bill soon."

The bill, the successor to HSB 566, is supported by the Iowa Osteopathic Medical Association, Child and Family Policy Center, the Iowa Academy of Family Physicians, the Family Planning Council of Iowa, the Iowa Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa, the Iowa Medical Society and the American Cancer Society. It is opposed by Golden Rule Insurance, the Iowa Christian Alliance and Iowa Right to Life.

For the most part, insurance companies — many of which already provide coverage for the vaccine — have remained neutral about the bill.

"Really this is about the state making a long-term commitment to women," said Kyle Carlson, staff attorney for PPGI. "This is the state saying that it is going to prevent cervical cancer as a matter of policy rather than leaving it to market forces."

Genital HPV infection is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by human papillomavirus, a group of viruses that includes more than 100 different strains. The disease is spread by genital contact. All types of HPV can cause mild Pap-test abnormalities that do not have serious consequences. Roughly 10 out of the 30 identified genital HPV types can lead to development of cervical cancer.

In June 2006, the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases in females caused by HPV was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine protects against four HPV types, which altogether cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts. The vaccine was subsequently approved by the Food and Drug Administration for use in girls and women between the ages of 9 and 26. The vaccine is given through a series of three shots during a six-month period.

While there is no doubt the vaccination could save the lives of girls if it is provided before they become sexually active, social conservatives have argued that immunizing teens could encourage sexual activity and provide a false sense of protection against other sexually transmitted infections.

"I think we can reassure [those who worry about promiscuity] that there isn't a cause-effect relationship," said Dr. John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "To put it in another way, the threat of getting cancer has not prevented people from engaging in sexual activity. More importantly, we've found that if you want people to take up an effective measure, you don't ram it down their throat. You provide it and educate people."

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  • invalid-0

    Isn’t it a bit ridiculous that insurance companies should be “required” i.e. forced to provide a LIFE SAVING vaccine for women but yet never bat an eye at providing Viagra? If this vaccine saved boys/men’s lives, there would be no question as to whether it would be mandatory or covered by insurance. Absolutely pathetic and these companies/people ought to be ashamed of themselves. Ahh, misogyny is alive and well.

  • invalid-0

    It is also ridiculous that pro-choice people would support laws that require by law any medical procedure. there are pros and cons to any vaccine but this one has been rushed through without enough studies–girls have been getting sick from it!

  • invalid-0

    This is about requiring that insurance companies cover the HPV vaccine so that Iowa citizens with insurance can be assured that if they want the vaccine – or want their daughters to get the vaccine – they can.

    This law does not require any medical procedure to be undergone. In addition, despite the fact that school districts around the country, along with health departments, say that they require certain vaccinations to enter public school (Hep B, Hep C, DTAP, Measles/Mumps), there is no federal law that states this. It is therefore unlikely that there will be any law that states that young women MUST be vaccinated against HPV.

    I agree with you that there are pros and cons to any vaccine and that we always want to ensure the safety of any vaccine first.

    However, this is once again about allowing individuals, families, parents and others the freedom to decide what’s best for their lives and health with their doctors – not the federal government or others who believe they know what’s best for everyone.

  • invalid-0

    Anon, I also have a problem with much of the media and advertising that’s been done surrounding this vaccine. Not to mention the underhand tactics Merk has used in getting it to market. I’ve had this conversation with so many others who disagree strongly with me about this vaccine. I’m going to post my concerns here, just for the heck of it because I don’t like that anyone who disagrees with the administration of this vaccine is portrayed as a “right-wing nut”. I don’t agree with anything the conservatives say and my reasons for disagreeing with the administration of this vaccine are totally different from the “it will cause promiscuity” BS (no I don’t think the vaccine will cause promiscuity or anything else conservatives claim, again my concerns are completely different). To me, it doesn’t seem that anyone is considering the numbers and risks and weighing the positives vs. negatives. There are negatives associated with vaccines and many parents have legitimate concerns, and these parents aren’t “nuts”. (i’ll mention more about this bill at the end of my rant, if you want to skip to the last paragraph)

    Okay, start rant here:
    First of all HPV is extremely common, and the chances of a person with HPV developing cervical cancer are extremely small. Roughly 11,070 cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year and about 4,000 people will die annually from. Considering that roughly 20 million people currently have HPV, the risk of having that turn into cervical cancer is EXTREMELY small. Recent strides made against cervical cancer has been made largely because of women receiving annual pap smears. Encouraging women to keep receiving these pap smears and perhaps introducing programs to help low income women receive these tests would still be effective and a lot cheaper in the fight against cervical cancer.

    The marketing done by Merk positions this vaccine as some sort of miracle vaccine, they don’t stress that the vaccine only protects against 70% of HPV strains that cause cervical cancer, so someone who still gets the vaccine is not entirely immune. Yet the vaccine is being portrayed as a for-sure way of preventing HPV and this is just wrong.
    Neither is the long term efficacy of the vaccine known, there’s been no studies done and has even been one of Merk’s own doctor’s who worked on the vaccine for 15 years that came out and warned about treating this vaccine as some sort of miracle drugs and warned about it’s untested long-tern efficacy, the potential side effects and it’s unknown long-term side effects. Furthermore “clinical trial studies and recent medical journal editorials stated that the vaccine only reduced the risk of precancerous abnormal cells by 17 per cent, and that, in fact, people who are vaccinated might be at risk of picking up twelve other high-risk strains of HPV not covered by the vaccine”

    Something else that hasn’t gotten much attention are the other doctors, scientists and activists who are trying to educate the public about the dangers of vaccines, especially giving many many vaccines to children. They have been trying to warn the public about how autism may be connected with vaccines and also how most vaccines contain harmful ingredients that are not safe at any level, such as formaldehyde and mercury. There’s also plenty of side effects that were associated with the Gardasil vaccine itself including heart related problems, neurological events including grand mal seizures, movement disorders and blackouts or fainting, and Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Like I said, the long-term side effects are still unknown. “Gardasil trials found that 82 per cent of vaccinated kids had adverse events including the onset of arthritis” It’s ignorant to assume that these vaccines are completely harmless.

    Yes there are benefits to certain vaccines, but that is why it is important to weigh the pro’s and con’s. With the HPV vaccine, it seems like everyone is jumping at the opportunity and portraying it as a miracle drug without considering any of the negatives. I think there are a lot of con’s and I don’t think the benefits, especially given the statistics, outweigh the con’s. For me it has nothing to do with any of those arguments given by conservatives or right-wing folk. There are plenty of parents who are against giving their children these vaccines and they all have legitimate reasons that I don’t think should be “poo-poo-ed” by media calling them “right wing nuts”.

    Okay, all that said, I do agree with a bill that requires insurance companies to provide vaccines, as long as this doesn’t lead to legislation that also requires people to get this vaccine (mandatory vaccination). Ugh, sorry for the long post and ranting about this vaccine, , I just had to get that all out.

    Quotes references here from the following article: http://thetyee.ca/News/2007/05/31/HPVVax/

    • invalid-0

      It’s somewhat disconcerting how many different constituencies are pushing people to have this insufficiently tested vaccine. Also frustrating is the assumption that any opposition to what’s “obviously a miracle drug” is labeled as fundie/conservatist/nutcases, without listening to their objections.

  • invalid-0

    While the basics of the HPV vaccine are listed in your article, you could have done further research into the vaccine. You would have found that there are many legitimate reasons why young women are hesitant about receiving the vaccine. One reason is that may women have already come in contact with the virus, and the vaccine is much less effective against those women. Moreover, researchers do not fully understand the long term effects of the the vaccine. If the vaccine is only effective for a few years after the shots, would it be truly cost-effective to receive the vaccine? Some mathematical projections say that the vaccine might be barely cost-effective if many booster shots are needed. Therefore, I should caution against your optimism for the HPV vaccine. But I would like to thank you for bring out the truth about the false link between promiscuity and the vaccine. No research has proven the link, which has been used so vehemently against the vaccine.