Just an hour before the Legislature’s midnight deadline for passing House bills out of the lower chamber, as lightning flashed ominously outside the Capitol, tonight’s debate took a brief and sudden turn back to 2007 when the human papillomavirus and its vaccine dominated the state’s business.
Rep. Toni Rose’s House Bill 1340, allowing children 14 years and up to legally consent to their own immunizations, almost passed on a voice vote without a notice from the floor. But by the time Rose, a Dallas Democrat, offered an amendment to include kids in Texas Juvenile Justice Department custody, the words “immunization” and “minor” attracted some attention.
Rep. Jonathan Stickland (R-Bedford) went to the back microphone to worry that Rose’s bill would let minors make decisions with life-long effects. “How long does an immunization last?” he asked her.
“I’m not a medical professional,” Rose said.
Rep. Jodie Laubenberg (R-Parker) was next, asking if this consent to immunization would include the minors’ consent to the HPV vaccine, which prevents certain types of cervical cancer and genital warts caused by the sexually transmitted disease.
Laubenberg’s concerns echoed the controversy surrounding Gov. Rick Perry’s 2007 executive order mandating the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old girls. In response to parents upset about having youngsters inoculated, by default, against a disease they would only get through sexual activity, the 80th Legislature undid Perry’s order.
Rose told Laubenberg her bill would cover the HPV vaccine, along with the others doctors regularly give. Rose said her bill was aimed at kids who often go out and have sex and drink behind their parents backs anyway, and said she doubted they would go behind their parents’ backs to get immunized. Rose also said her bill applied to only routine vaccinations given to kids to prevent illness, and would require a permission form on file from a parent or guardian.
Rep. J.D. Sheffield (R-Gatesville), a family doctor and a co-author on the bill, stopped the shenanigans. “Did you know that it’s recommended that boys get the HPV vaccine now too?” he asked from the back mic. He said there are only two kinds of children who don’t need the HPV vaccine: girls who know they’re going to be nuns and boys who know they’re going to be monks.
On a vote right after those remarks, the bill passed easily. Rose’s bill will be heard tomorrow on third reading before it can head to the Senate.