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N.M. Governor Bill Richardson Will Veto Bill Mandating Cervical Cancer Vaccine for Sixth Grade Girls

The governor said Tuesday he will veto a bill that would have required girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer.

Gov. Bill Richardson had indicated he would sign the bill after it passed the Legislature last month, but on Tuesday said he changed his mind after parents and doctors told him their concerns about the program.

"While everyone recognizes the benefits of this vaccine, there is insufficient time to educate parents, schools and health care providers," he said.

The measure would have taken effect June 15, requiring girls entering sixth grade this fall to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus, or HPV, before they enter public or private school.

The veto will not affect a state health department program — which was in the planning stages before the legislation was passed — that will offer the vaccine to girls entering fifth grade in the fall in school districts that decide to participate.

Bills have been introduced in about 20 states to require the vaccine that protects against HPV, but some have backed off the measures because concerns over the vaccine's safety and protests from conservatives who say requiring it promotes promiscuity and erodes parents' rights.

Gardasil, a three-dose vaccine that protects against HPV for females ages 9 to 26, 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 vaccinated girls and women. Government health officials said last month that no additional warning labels are needed.

Richardson did sign a related bill, which requires that health insurance policies and plans provide coverage for the HPV vaccine.

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