U.S. state legislation would require girls to be vaccinated against cervical cancer

Girls entering the sixth grade in the state of Michigan next year would have to be vaccinated against cervical cancer under legislation backed Tuesday by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers.

The legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, said Republican state Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, lead sponsor.

The vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June for use in girls and women and has been hailed as a breakthrough in cancer prevention. It prevents infections from some strains of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

A government advisory panel said that ideally the vaccine should be given before girls become sexually active, reports AP.

The American Cancer Society estimates 9,700 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2006, and 3,700 will die.

"We believe we can save the lives of these girls," Hammerstrom said.

Some conservatives around the country have expressed concern that schools would make the vaccine a requirement for enrollment. They have argued that requiring the vaccine would infringe on parents' rights and send a message that underage sex is OK.

The three-shot vaccination costs $360 (Ђ283). Hammerstrom said most employers in Michigan will cover the vaccine, and said uninsured girls could be covered through the federal government's Vaccines for Children program.

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