Proposal would require vaccine


January 20, 2007

Middle school girls in Maryland would be required to get vaccines for a virus that causes cervical cancer under legislation being considered in Annapolis.

Several state senators have introduced a bill to require the shots for sixth-grade girls. The shot would prevent a common, sexually transmitted virus that causes about 70 percent of the cases of cervical cancer. Other states also are considering a requirement for the vaccine.

Supporters say the vaccine, approved last summer for girls as young as 9, is a no-brainer because it could eliminate female cases of human papilloma virus, or HPV. The virus can also cause genital lesions or warts.

"Why wouldn't we do it?" asked Sen. Lisa A. Gladden, a Baltimore Democrat and one of the bill's co-sponsors. "I don't think we should even be debating this."

Some believe that requiring the vaccine would infringe on parents' rights to look after their daughters. Doctors have said the shot should be given before girls start having sex -- but policymakers are wary about talking about sexual activity and underage girls.

"This vaccine is very important, but I'm reluctant to make it mandatory," said Sen. Janet Greenip, an Anne Arundel County Republican. "If [the vaccine] is good, people will do it."

Similar legislation has not been proposed in the House of Delegates. The Maryland State Medical Society has not taken a position on the Senate proposal, though lobbyist Joseph Schwartz said the group would consider the question soon.

The sponsor of the requirement, Sen. Delores G. Kelley, said the bill wouldn't force the vaccine on parents who oppose it for religious or other reasons.

"If a parent didn't want their child vaccinated, they could go through the protocol and opt out," said Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat.

Many states are considering an HPV vaccine requirement, or at least advocating that girls get it. On Thursday, Delaware Gov. Ruth Ann Minner encouraged access to the vaccine in her State of the State address. Requirements for the vaccine are being considered in Virginia, West Virginia and other states.


Bill calls for preference given to embryonic stem cell studies

A bill introduced in the state Senate yesterday calls for Maryland to give preference to state-funded research on embryonic stem cells, over adult stem cells.

Maryland joined several other states last year in approving a stem cell research fund in response to a Bush administration ban on providing money for research on new embryonic lines. As part of a compromise to overcome opposition from abortion opponents, the current state program gives no preference to either kind of stem cell research.

Some abortion opponents disapprove of embryonic stem cell research because it requires the destruction of the embryo.

But Sen. Michael G. Lennett of Montgomery County said he believes that the most promising avenues for scientific advancement lie with research into embryonic cells. He wants Maryland to give more weight to it when allocating money.

Last year, the General Assembly approved $15 million for stem cell research, and this year, Gov. Martin O'Malley is calling for $25 million.


O'Malley says he'll return newspaper boxes to capitol

Wandering through the State House yesterday, Gov. Martin O'Malley pledged to return newspaper boxes to the capitol building.

His predecessor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., removed the boxes three years ago, ostensibly for security reasons. But the removal came at a time when he was feuding with the Annapolis press corps and attempting to oust its members from their offices on the ground floor of the State House.

He failed at that -- it turns out that the governor doesn't have that kind of power -- but he got rid of the newspaper boxes. O'Malley, making his inaugural visit to press row, asked what it would take to get them back. An aide told him nothing more was needed than his say-so.

"So it is written, so it shall be done," O'Malley said.


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