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New Mexico to
require HPV vaccine

New Mexico to
require HPV vaccine

New Mexico is on the verge of becoming the latest state to require sixth-grade girls to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer, a spokesman for the governor said Monday. The state house approved the bill Sunday, and Gov. Bill Richardson will sign it once he receives the legislation, spokesman Gilbert Gallegos said.

''This is an important anticancer vaccine, and the governor believes it's imperative for all girls to be protected against cervical cancer,'' Gallegos said. He said the bill will go into effect 90 days after it is signed.

Texas is the only state to require the vaccine so far, but other states are considering doing the same. While federal regulators have approved the vaccine, the issue of making it a requirement for girls has been surrounded by controversy. Merck & Co., the vaccine's maker, said last month that it would suspend a behind-the-scenes lobbying campaign to get states to require it for school-age girls because of pressure from parents and medical groups.

Texas governor Rick Perry sidestepped his state's legislature when he ordered the shots for girls entering the sixth grade there starting in September 2008. He has since had to defend his relationship with Merck; the Associated Press reported Perry's chief of staff met with key aides about the vaccine on the same day Merck's political action committee donated money to the governor's campaign. It wasn't known if Merck had lobbied New Mexico officials.

Virginia lawmakers passed a similar law, which Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has said he would sign. Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick's budget proposal calls for providing the vaccine for free to all girls 9 to 18 who want it. Other states have considered legislation as well. In Colorado, lawmakers are debating a bill that would make the cervical cancer vaccine mandatory for girls entering sixth grade unless their parents sign a form refusing it.

The federal government approved Gardasil, a three-dose vaccine that protects against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, in June for females ages 9 to 26. The vaccine protects against HPV strains that cause cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers and genital warts. More than 500 cases of mostly minor side effects have been reported in girls and women who got the vaccine. Government health officials said last month that no additional warning labels are needed. (AP)

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