Monday, October 10, 2011
Gov. Jerry Brown has waded into the national debate over child vaccinations for sexually transmitted diseases, signing into law a bill allowing children as young as 12 to get vaccinated without their parents' consent.
Brown announced Sunday that he had signed AB499, which lets minors get vaccinated against a virus known as human papilloma. Also known as HPV, the virus is a precursor to a leading cause of cervical cancer.
Under the bill signed by Brown, children will also be able to get other STD prevention treatments, including new medicines that help prevent HIV infection if given within 72 hours of exposure.
Supporters, including public health officials, say the law will keep up with new prevention treatments and help slow the spread of disease among minors.
Opponents, including religious leaders, pro-family organizations and Republican lawmakers, say it undermines parents' right to be involved in their children's medical decisions.
Randy Thomasson, president of SaveCalifornia.com, worried the law will deceive preteen girls into a false sense of security, leading them to think they can freely engage in sexual activity without risk. He also accused Brown of interfering with parents' ability to make decisions for children not yet old enough to vote or drive.
The choice has been a hot topic recently in the Republican presidential race.
Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann used a GOP debate to attack Texas Gov. Rick Perry for issuing a 2007 executive order mandating the HPV vaccine for young girls. That mandate was overturned by Texas lawmakers, but Perry argued that supporting the vaccinations means supporting life.
California lets minors seek diagnosis and treatment for STDs without parental consent, but they cannot get vaccinated without parental approval. The state already lets teens get confidential care for contraception, pregnancy, mental health problems and drug abuse.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted disease. The bill's author, Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, said it has become the world's second leading cause of cancer deaths among women, killing more than 400 Californians in 2008, the latest year for which statistics were available.
Two vaccines are available and most effective if given before a person becomes sexually active. One is licensed as Gardasil by Merck and the other is Cervarix, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline.
Opponents note that minors cannot get a tattoo or body piercing without their parents' approval in California. They argued it is even more vital for parents to be involved in their childrens' medical care.
Supporters say teenagers and preteens often feel they cannot talk to their parents or guardian.