Members of the legislature, the public and medical professionals will participate in the first-ever joint meeting of the Oklahoma Women’s Legislative Caucus and the Oklahoma Cancer Caucus. State Sen. Debbe Leftwich, who serves as co-chair of each group, said the agenda for the Thursday afternoon meeting would include information on a new vaccine for cervical cancer.
Leftwich was Senate author of legislation approved in 2004 which provided funding for uninsured and underinsured women needing treatment for breast and cervical cancer. The program officially went into effect last January, and as of the end of November, 3,895 Oklahomans had received treatment.
“By helping those women get treatment, we saved lives. But the truth is we can save even more lives through awareness and prevention,” said Leftwich, D-Oklahoma City. “Naturally when I saw the reports that a vaccine had been developed that could actually prevent cervical cancer in the first place, I wanted both the Cancer and Women’s Caucuses to hear the latest information.”
Earlier this fall, Merck pharmaceutical company presented the findings of a study on the vaccine to the Infectious Diseases Society of America. According to published reports, the study found the vaccine to be 100 percent effective in the short term at blocking two types of human papilloma virus which are responsible for about 70 percent of cervical cancers.
The joint caucuses will hear presentations from Liana Clark, M.D., Medical Director, Merck Vaccine Division, as well as Sarah F. Wells, senior director of public policy for Women In Government, which is a bi-partisan, non-profit organization representing elected women state officials. Clark will present information on the vaccine while Wells will discuss Women in Government’s nationwide campaign to eliminate cervical cancer.
“With the development of preventive vaccines and more sophisticated diagnostic screening, such as FDA-approved HPV testing, we are on the threshold of an incredible era in which cervical cancer could be eliminated through better and more accessible preventive health care,” said Wells. “Women In Government applauds Oklahoma’s great strides in fighting this preventable disease.”
Wells noted that, since Women In Government launched its Challenge to Eliminate Cervical Cancer Campaign in January 2004, 42 states have introduced legislation or resolutions targeting cervical cancer elimination and 34 states have enacted such measures.
Both presentations will be made when the joint caucuses convene at 2 p.m. on Thursday, December 8, in room 419-C of the State Capitol and then again for a meeting of the Breast and Cervical Cancer Prevention and Treatment Advisory Committee, also chaired by Sen. Leftwich. That meeting will be held at 1 p.m. on Friday, December 9 and will also meet in 419-C. Both meetings will be live on the internet.
To access streaming audio and video, go to www.oksenate.gov and then follow the Senate /Video link at the bottom of the homepage.