The human papillomavirus (HPV) is a sexually transmitted disease that has infected some 79 million Americans. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), most of the people affected by HPV are those in their late teens and early 20s.
HPV can cause cervical and other cancers according to the CDC. In order to protect people against this potentially deadly virus, the CDC recommends boys and girls age 11 or 12 to get vaccinated. The agency says the HPV vaccine can be given to girls beginning at the age of nine.
Former Governor Rick Perry issued an order in 2007 requiring girls entering the sixth grade be issued the HPV vaccine. He also made the vaccine free to girls ages 9 to 18 who were uninsured or didn’t have insurance which covered the vaccine.
“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” Perry told the Associated Press in 2007.
Perry’s executive order was overturned by Texas House Bill 1098, which rescinded the requirement girls receive the HPV vaccine. Rather than veto the bill, Perry let the bill become law without signing it, preventing further controversy over the vaccine.
“Every day that goes by, another Texas woman loses her battle with cervical cancer. This is a tragedy,” Perry wrote at the time, when the bill became law. “But I am confident that one day, when the courage that characterizes our people is reflected by the legislature, that we will largely eradicate this disease, and the virus that spreads it. Let us hope so.”
That day may never come if we have to rely on politicians like Texas Rep. Dwayne Bohac (R – Houston), who voted in favor lifting the HPV vaccine requirement. Bohac has a history of voting against vaccines and immunization for children.
The HPV vaccine has already had a positive impact on public health. The CDC reported the HPV vaccine decreased the virus in teenage girls ages 14 to 19 by 56 percent. Conversely, preventing girls from receiving the HPV vaccine puts them at risk for cancer, said former CDC Director Tom Frieden.
“Our low vaccination rates represents 50,000 preventable tragedies – 50,000 girls alive today will develop cervical cancer over their lifetime that would have been prevented if we reach 80 percent vaccination rate,” Frieden said in a CDC release. “For every year we delay in doing so, another 4,400 girls will develop cervical cancer in their lifetimes.”
Dwayne Bohac’s vote to limit access to the HPV vaccine will have meaningful adverse impacts upon the health of young Texans and long-term risks for women. It’s part of a pattern of votes against vaccines and needless interference with women’s health.