Eye On Olympia

State to buy thousands of HPV doses, distribute for free...

State officials are planning to spend millions of dollars on more than 100,000 doses of a new vaccine that helps prevent cervical cancer, Washington state Secretary of Health Mary Selecky said Monday. The state hopes to distribute enough of the free human papillomavirus vaccine to treat every girl in the state.

The state will not, however, follow Texas' lead and make the HPV shots mandatory for young girls, Gov. Chris Gregoire said. At least not now.

"I told the medical association that I was reticent to dictate when I think there is a lot of public education that needs to go on," the governor told reporters Monday at the Capitol. "To go out and start just saying everybody mandatorily has to have this is a little bit troublesome for me."

The Merck-made vaccine, called Gardasil, can help prevent the spread of human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States. An estimated 20 million Americans are infected. Certain strains of the virus have been linked to cervical cancer.

Selecky said she hopes to have the free doses of Gardasil available by late spring.

"We're getting calls all over saying, 'When is this going to start?' " she said.

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