Las Vegas Sun

January 27, 2015

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Vote against vaccine coverage endangers women

Jon Ralston’s Thursday “Reality Check” column reminded many of us concerned with the health of women about the baffling vote by then-state Sen. Joe Heck — who is running against Rep. Dina Titus — against insurance coverage for the vaccine that protects against viruses that cause cervical cancer.

Ralston writes, “Heck never voted against a vaccine for cervical cancer. He voted against forcing insurance companies to cover a vaccine for HPV ...” However, the Mayo Clinic reports, “Evidence of HPV is found in nearly all cervical cancers.” So in fact, a vote against coverage of the HPV vaccine is a vote against protecting women from cancer.

Furthermore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 80 percent of American women will contract at least one strain of genital HPV by age 50. Every year 1 million of these women will be diagnosed with cervical dysplasia (CD), a precursor to cancer caused by HPV, which is painful and costly to treat.

Additionally, each year 10,000 Americans whose CD was not previously detected will be diagnosed with cervical cancer, and 3,700 will die of it. For these reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend widespread vaccination.

Requiring insurance companies to cover the vaccine is not inconsequential. The cost of the vaccine is $360, putting it out of the reach of many families if not covered by insurance. Dr. Heck’s vote against vaccine coverage indeed puts women at risk of contracting preventable cancer.

Significantly, Dina Titus authored the bill Heck voted against. While Heck supported the insurance industry, Titus fought to protect the health of women. Consequently, Titus will continue to have my support as well as the support of many women and parents.

The writer is past president of Nevada NOW (Silver State chapter of the National Organization for Women).

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