What parent wouldn't want to protect his or her child from cancer?

When it's phrased it like that, it seems odd that anybody would vote against Bakari Sellers' bill, the Cervical Cancer Prevention Act, which would allow DHEC to provide education about the HPV vaccine to parents of seventh-graders, and vaccinations to the students, only if the parents want them to.

In fact, there was substantial support for the bill last year, in the House and Senate.

But then the governor vetoed the bill using some kind of circular logic, and suddenly there wasn't quite enough support in the Legislature — not the two-thirds majority needed to counteract the veto, anyway.

So Sellers, D-Bamberg, had a special request.

“Play your role,” Sellers said. “Don't just wait until the bill doesn't pass and send angry letters to your governor.”

In other words, make an effort early and often. Write or call your state legislators and tell them you want to improve health in this state. And tell Nikki Haley not to veto the bill this time.

Why it matters

Yes, it is that important. The National Institutes of Health says HPV infections are the most common type of infection in the United States. HPV causes 5 percent of all cancers worldwide, but 70 percent of cervical cancers are caused by HPV. South Carolina is ninth in the country for cervical cancer.

Seems like a good reason to vaccinate.

But parents need to know that even if the bill passes and escapes a veto, the vaccination is not required. Proving once again that you can't legislate common sense.

The good news here is that the estimated costs associated with the bill are relatively small, perhaps a couple hundred thousand dollars to make educational literature available to parents of seventh-graders, plus the cost of the vaccine for those not covered by their parents' insurance or Medicaid. Compare that with the $25 million spent in the state to treat women with cervical cancer. It's not about government telling parents how to run their households.

It also is not an attempt to force any particular reproductive agenda, though South Carolina is among the states with higher sexually transmitted infection rates than the national average among women ages 15 to 19.

Yet another list where we don't want to be near the top.

Risk reduction

“Every single person is at risk,” said Dr. Jennifer Young-Pierce, a gynecologic oncologist at MUSC's Hollings Cancer Center.

Yes, you read that correctly. Every single person. Your child is at risk for HPV and the related possible problems it brings. Those problems may not show up until five or 10 years later.

It's not about whether somebody has sex for the first time in their teens versus their 20s, it's about the insidious nature of the virus.

The medical community doesn't know why HPV develops into cancers in some people and not others. But it does know that this vaccination can stop that process.

What more do we need to know?

Reach Melanie Balog at 937-5565 or mbalog@postandcourier.com.