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Forced immunizations, Bush hazes Coble, bond estimates

by Kirk Ross

Immunization battle brewing

North Carolina is considering adding several more vaccinations to the list of what the state will pay for poor and indigent children. On the list is a vaccination against HPV – human papillomavirus – which causes most cervical cancer. That’s okay, says the NC Family Policy Council, a fundamentalist group that has argued against universal HPV vaccinations.

But if the state wants to take HPV prevention any further, as in requiring girls to have the vaccination before entering school, the council says they’ll fight it just as other groups have done elsewhere. South Carolina is already in the midst of a push to require the vaccination and last week Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, bypassed a fight in the legislature by issuing an executive order requiring the vaccinations.

After the federal Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccination last year, NC Family Policy Council President Bill Brooks said his group would follow the lead of Focus on the Family, which has argued that the vaccinations could promote sex before marriage and lead to greater risk of sexually transmitted diseases. Brooks issued a statement after the FDA ruling that said: “The development of a vaccine against cervical cancer is an important medical advancement and we support its availability. However, since HPV is unique among other routinely vaccinated diseases because it is contracted through sexual activity and not casual contact in a classroom like the flu or measles, we believe that parents, and not the state, should have the final say about whether to vaccinate their child.”

HPV is almost exclusively the cause of cervical cancer, which worldwide is the second leading cause of cancer deaths among women worldwide and kills roughly 4,000 women in the US annually. Gardasil, the new vaccine, has proven to be 100 percent effective against the types of HPV that cause two-thirds of all cervical cancers. Another vaccine is under development.

Price to hold hearings

Even before the appointment of Fourth District US Congressman David Price as chair of the House Appropriations Committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security budget, the Chapel Hill Democrat was high on the must-visit list for DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff. He two had an informal visit at Price’s office in December.

Now, they’ll meet in more formal circumstance as Price gears up hearings on policies, funding and priorities for each of the department’s 22 agencies.

Price has said he believes the department has over-emphasized anti-terrorism programs and needs to shift priorities and funding to better deal with general disaster preparedness and support for first responders.

Hat trick

Not sure why it was Sixth District US Rep. Howard Coble of Greensboro standing up there with Carolina Hurricanes, President Bush and this state’s two senators as the Stanley Cup winners made their official trip to the White House.

Maybe the Democrats from Raleigh were busy or maybe they didn’t want to hear the president wax poetic about coach Mike Commodore’s hair or tell the winners how he likes people with low expectations.

And Coble, who along with fellow NC GOP Rep. Walter Jones is opposing Bush’s escalation plans, didn’t get a real friendly welcome either.

“Fine looking lid, isn’t it?” the president said referring to Coble’s championship ‘Canes hat. “I thought you might be wearing that to cover up your bald head.”

On top of that as of Monday morning, the 11-term congressman’s name was still spelled “Koble” on the White House website.

Bond watch

Still basking in the glow of NC being one of only seven states with top marks from all three bond rating agencies, State Treasurer Richard Moore released his assessment of how much debt the state can afford to add each year over the next 10 years. Moore says strong revenue growth and low interest rates have allowed the amount to rise from last year’s estimate of $214.4 million to $384 million for this year. That opens the door for a larger dollar figure on any bond referendums that would go to the voters in 2008.

Kirk Ross travels the state for CapeFearMercury.com and writes about state governance at ExileOnJonesStreet.com. He can be reached at editor@capefearmercury.com.

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