I'm not too pleased with Governor Rick Perry of Texas right now - he recently signed an executive order that directed the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to adopt rules requiring that girls who are entering sixth grade in 2008 must be vaccinated with Merck's new Gardasil vaccine. This vaccine is said to protect against strains of the HPV (human papilloma) virus, which has been shown to be a contributing cause in cervical cancers.
Now, I'm not against the use of this vaccine, especially if it proves to be relatively safe to use, without any major side effects. But why does this need to be mandated? And, I wonder how the governor intends to pay for it - at $360/injection, it's not cheap.
According to the Dallas Morning News (Liz Austin Peterson, AP story published 02/07/2007 ), Gov. Perry has ties to Merck, whose political action committee contributed $6000 to Perry's recent re-election campaign. Merck is lobbying for this Gardasil mandate in other states as well; one of the company's three lobbyists is Perry's former chief of staff, Mike Toomey.
So, did Perry simply wake up one morning, see the new Gardasil ad and think to himself "I need to make sure that every little girl in Texas is safe from cervical cancer and I'm going to do something about it today!" Or, could it be that the suggestion was fed to Perry from Merck via their PAC, or Toomey? That seems more likely to me...
I also wonder if Perry has done the math - $360 per sixth grade girl is a lot of money. Will the state underwrite the effort at all, will families have to bear the entire cost? Where is the money coming from to pay for this mandated vaccine?
But what most concerns me about this mandate, and not only here in Texas, but in any state - what message might we be sending our daughters and parents by mandating a drug that protects against a sexually transmitted disease? And what does this say about our society's views on parental responsibility, or even a woman's right to choose?
Texas schools are under another mandate - they are required to teach abstinence in sex education classes. Does mandating Gardasil vaccinations seem counter to that teaching? How will teachers reconcile the two in sex ed classes? Doesn't mandating this vaccine make an assumption that teenage girls are going to have sex? Not saying that assumption isn't accurate to some extent, but bear with me here...
In America, a woman has the right to choose what she wishes for her own body, but then the government steps in to mandate something like this. Yes, parents will be given the option to opt out of this program for religious or philosophical objections, but doesn't Choice dictate that we should be opting IN, rather than OUT?
To me, granting Choice requires great responsibility on the part of an adult woman, or on the part of a girl's parents. I fear that, as a society, we aren't instructing ourselves to take responsibility for our actions in situations BEFORE we get into trouble. Rather than taking reactive positions that are based in the thinking "oh well, we're going to do it anyway", we should all be taking a proactive stance to educate and prevent the problems from occurring in the first place.
So, if parents feel it is important to vaccinate their daughter with Gardasil, they have the Choice to do so. Parents should teach their children to be responsible by pushing abstinence as the best Choice, even while educating children about the realities of sex and about preventive measures. Parents need to rise to the challenge to be excellent role models for their children, and show them that it is better to be smart about the choices they make so they can avoid problems, rather than being lazy and worrying about the consequences later.
wow, my first REAL blog...
leave a comment if you want to flame me/hug me/or otherwise discuss this issue