Saturday, February 10, 2007

HPV Vaccine is Pro-Life

The governor of Texas (of all governors, of all states!) has written an op-ed extolling the virtues of making the HPV vaccine mandatory for young girls in his state. His take? It's truly a "pro-life" position as it saves girl's & women's lives by helping to prevent cervical cancer. Great idea - why didn't the pro-choicers think of this tack?! Oh, wait, we did. Our minds and bodies are bursting with the inherent knowledge that freedom of access and choice saves lives.

Gov. Rick Perry proclaimed his strong stance against cancer (wow, that's a brave choice!) in this opinion piece in USA Today (sorry, I'm a little grumpy today):

Opposing view: My order protects life
Vaccine mandate will prevent deaths, give parents the final word.

By Rick Perry

As governor of Texas, I will do everything in my power to protect public health. The executive order I signed last Friday will help stop the spread of human papillomavirus (HPV) and prevent cervical cancer in young women.

Some are focused on the cause of this cancer, but I remain focused on the cure. And if I err, I will always err on the side of protecting life.

For the first time in history, a vaccine exists that can prevent a deadly cancer — the second most common form of cancer in women. The HPV vaccine is approved by the U.S Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a second vaccine is expected on the market within the next year.

Research shows that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in protecting women against the four leading cancer-causing strains of HPV. Though some might argue that we should wait several years before requiring the vaccine, I believe such a delay unnecessarily risks the lives of young women.

This is not the first vaccine Texas has required for a non-contagious disease. Years ago, Texas required inoculations to prevent the spread of Hepatitis B, spread primarily through sexual contact or shared needles.

Even with this new requirement, parents can still choose to opt out. But we will never eradicate a disease that impacts 20 million Americans with an "opt in" provision because statistics show only one-quarter of the eligible population gets inoculated in such circumstances. The "opt out" provision — standard for all Texas vaccinations —will help us protect three-quarters of our young women.

Parents will still have the final word, and a full debate will take place as our health agency adopts implementation rules before the order takes effect in 19 months. And if Texas legislators want to debate and pass a different vaccine law, there is nothing standing in their way.

If we could stop lung cancer, would some shy away claiming it might encourage tobacco use? This is a rare opportunity to act, and as a pro-life governor, I will always take the side of protecting life.

Rick Perry, a Republican, is governor of Texas.

I praise Governor Perry for coming out in favor of not just providing the vaccine to young girls & women in his state, but making it mandatory, thereby ensuring that all who want it, have access to it. As with any vaccine, a parent of a minor can choose to "opt out" on behalf of their children.

But there is the cynical, maybe just level-headed, part of myself that sees this (and all state policies that have made the HPV vaccine mandatory thus far) as a deal with the devil. It's a handshake between legislators and a powerful drug company lobby. Merck will get the billions, governors & legislators will get the support. Maybe that's just the way politics works. I want the HPV vaccine to be available and, more than that, accessible to any girl or woman who wants it.

And, as the oped states, when you make a vaccine mandatory there is clearly a huge percentage of folks who will get it, who wouldn't otherwise. So, it's a good thing, right?

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