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Best of Bweinh! — HPV Vaccine Clash : Bweinh!

Best of Bweinh! — HPV Vaccine Clash

July 27, 2007, 12:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Debate, Job, Tom  | No Comments

Originally published on April 27, 2007.

In this corner, arguing against a standard HPV vaccine, is Job!

And in this corner, arguing for a standard HPV vaccine, is Tom!

I am very much not a father. I am very much not a female. But I do think it is somewhat possible that I might someday father a female and I can guarantee you no government is going to mandatorily vaccinate my adolescent daughter for any sort of sexually transmitted disease, such as the Human Papillomavirus.

The implication is disgusting. While the vaccine appears to be very effective, thorough and well-tested (albeit costly), and while I’m definitely not saying all Gardasil doses should be destroyed and the recipe burned, the notion that the government should go to
such brash, expensive, and heavy-handed means to “vaccinate” poor parenting is audacious, invasive and infuriating.

Currently only one state, Texas, has taken the steps to make such vaccinations mandatory. While the issues raised about Merck’s campaign donations to Gov. Rick Perry are tough to build an argument around, his use of an executive order in favor of legislation requiring all girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated does show a feeling that public dialogue may not go his way. And when the Texan legislature overruled his order, it further showed that apprehension about such invasion is most certainly there.

I think a far better tack to take would be allowing some competition to ferment, to make HPV vaccines cheaper and more readily acceptable, perhaps even easier and less expensive than pap smears.

What is more, understanding the disease, the manner in which it’s spread and the way it affects the physiology and psychology of women is of far greater benefit to our society than allowing the government to come in and sweep the problem under the rug.

Issues as personal as sexuality and children should always be handled delicately and with broad dialogue — never with executive orders that imply an urgency that suspects parents don’t already worry enough. Offer the vaccines, sure. Mandate them?

Over my dead body.

This shouldn’t be a debate over the actual use of the HPV vaccine. Its spread might be linked to the grinning, busted-up specter of promiscuity enjoying belle-of-the-ball status throughout most of the western “romantic” world, but few would say nothing should be done to stop the single largest cause of cervical cancer. Instead, my focus is bringing the vaccine into the standard arsenal of vaccinations.

Should a child get a vaccine their parents don’t want? There’s a difference between “standard” and “mandatory” vaccination. Your child won’t be denied access to preschool because she wasn’t immunized against HPV. Then there’s Job’s position — it should be available on request, but not suggested as a matter of course. When was the last time your co-worker was out for a few weeks with a nasty case of measles, mumps, or polio? Never — because of the vaccines that have rendered most individuals immune to them. They don’t merely keep individuals from getting sick, but prevent disease from spreading throughout a population. Since HPV is often asymptomatic in men, this makes it more important for women to be immunized, as a matter of course if the parents do not object.

There are moral implications to women getting these vaccinations before puberty. But when you travel to the third world, you don’t start vaccinations when you’re hip-deep in mosquitos. You get the shots well before you need them, to develop a sufficient immune response. Vaccines are useless for someone already infected, so it’s best to give the shots when they have the best chance to be effective. Will it make the country more promiscuous? How could it get any worse? And how many kids know what MMR or DTaP (two current vaccines) stand for? All the kid has to know is she’s getting a shot to keep her from getting sick, and if she’s good, she’ll get a lollipop.

HPV has been strongly linked to cervical cancer; even in women who approach sex the right way, its widespread nature makes it a threat — from rape, a husband’s past, or infidelity. We owe it to ourselves and our children’s children to try to stop it.

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