BY ROSEANN MORING
JEFFERSON CITY — Conservative and liberal groups have teamed up to support a bill that would give parents of public school girls information about a controversial vaccine that could help prevent cervical cancer.
The bill, which passed the Senate last week by a 28-5 vote, would give information about the HPV vaccine to parents of sixth-grade girls enrolled in public school. It would also pay for the $120 vaccine in some cases.
It does not mandate that parents vaccinate their daughters with Gardasil, which is intended to prevent the human papillomavirus, HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that has been linked to cervical cancer.
The House of Representatives has until Friday, the last day of the session, to vote on the bill.
Sponsor Jolie Justus, D-Kansas City, said the bill could dramatically reduce HPV.
“If parents decide to utilize this vaccine, there’s a good chance we could eliminate the virus that causes cervical cancer in a generation,” Justus said.
Missouri Catholic Conference Director Larry Weber said the organization worked with Justus to ensure a bill that makes both parties happy.
“People ought to get an impartial source of information so they can make up their minds about how to vaccinate their kids,” he said.
And Kerry Messer of another conservative group, Missouri Family Network, said because the bill doesn’t mandate the vaccine, it’s the most family-friendly policy in the state.
“There are tons of parents of these young girls who have no idea how to interpret these Gardasil commercials,” he said.
Messer said the state provides similar information about the flu virus.
The HPV vaccine prevents the strains of the virus that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer, according to the maker.
The American Cancer Society recommends that girls 11 to 12 get the vaccine.
But some say the vaccine is too new to be proven. And Rep. Cynthia Davis, R-O’Fallon, asked why the state should advertise for one drug company.
“What’s preventing our public from having the information already?” she asked in a committee hearing.
Concerned Women for America was the only group to testify against the bill in committee.
State director Bev Ehlen said the bill creates a family-friendly policy, but she opposes it on the principle that it encourages promiscuity.
“Science isn’t keeping up with the consequences of sexual immorality,” she said.