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May 22, 2006

An Unacceptable Mandate

Let’s be clear about this – I support the marketing of Merck’s new vaccine, Gardasil. If I had a daughter, I would have her vaccinated as a precaution against cervical cancer. But I draw the line at the notion of making a vaccination against a disease that is 100% sexually transmitted mandatory for admission to public schools.

The drugmaker's efforts to educate Christian groups while touting the vaccine's top selling point -- prevention of cervical cancer -- helped win them over.

But Merck may ultimately find itself at loggerheads with those same groups as it seeks to make the vaccine mandatory for school admission, a step considered key for widespread acceptance and one that many of the groups oppose.

The vaccine, known as Gardasil, with an estimated $2 billion U.S. market potential, targets four types of sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, or HPV, which is believed to cause more than 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts.

"We don't think it should be made mandatory for school attendance," said Peter Sprigg, vice president of policy at the Family Research Council, who attended the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel meeting on Thursday.

That view is shared by evangelical Christian group Focus on the Family.
"We support the widespread availability of the vaccine, but we do oppose the mandatory vaccination for entry to public school," said Linda Klepacki, an analyst for sexual health for the group.

For Gardasil to be widely adopted, Merck must first win FDA approval. Then, it must garner widespread backing from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices -- a group that advises the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on immunization standards. Both Merck and analysts deem widespread backing likely.

States would then consider whether it should be included in the list of vaccinations required for school admission.

And I do draw the line there. Cervical cancer and genital warts are not transmitted via casual contact. No child is going to catch the human papilloma virus just by sitting in the same classroom with and breathing the same air as a child who has the virus – or even either of the resulting conditions. There is simply no way to make the sort of public health argument that exists for requiring other childhood vaccines as a condition for being allowed into school – unless you want to argue that there is rampant sex taking place in the hallways and classrooms of America, and that this vaccination is the means of preventing the uncontrolled spread of the conditions in question. But if that argument is to be made, then there is a much bigger issue surrounding public education that needs be addressed much more quickly.

Frankly, requiring Gardasil would be no different than requiring Norplant of all female students. After all, the means of transmission for the condition to be prevented is identical, and the “exposure” to the risk of transmission is identically likely to happen outside of school as the means of transmission of genital warts and cervical cancer. Pregnancy, like the human papilloma virus, isn’t being transmitted through the air, in the drinking water, or via toilet seats. The very concept of state-mandated birth control shocks the conscience – why doesn’t state-mandated STD-preventatives cause the same outrage?

I teach high school. I know there are many health needs that go unaddressed among my students. We try to take care of some of them through school breakfast and lunch programs, through school-based health clinics (which are not, contrary to some claims, all about birth control and abortion), and through various health screenings. But we don’t mandate a good breakfast, force-feed kids a healthy lunch, or require anything but the most minimal medical care or diagnostic testing. We don’t even require a flu shot, despite the fact that a classroom is a swirling, seething culture of viruses and bacteria during certain times of the yearThat isn’t our mission. Neither is this, and the advocates of mandatory Gardasil are just setting up one more big-government nanny-state intrusion into family decision-making on child-rearing issues.

And by the way, don’t forget that making the vaccine mandatory will also give Merck $2 billion in mandatory profits every year for the foreseeable future. So is this really about public health – or private profits?





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Comments on An Unacceptable Mandate

You called it perfectly: private profits. Somebody has something to gain if this became mandatory.

I could've sworn my school in Crosby required us to have flu shots. Or maybe I just had bad parents :)

What many fail to realize is that by immunizing children to threats that are typical of an unhealthy lifestyle, they're legitimizing that unhealthy lifestyle.

Imagine what would happen in San Francisco (where an estimated 1 in every 4 males has HIV), if a shot would prevent you from contracting HIV after a romp in the bath house? Unprotected sex would spread (even more so) like crazy.

What happens whenever a parent (not parents, since more and more kids come home to an empty house, since their single parent is still working) hands a condom to their son or daughter and says, "I don't want you having sex, but if you do, be safe."

Having gone to school with several of these kids, it does nothing but to legitimize casual sex amongst middle/high-schoolers.

I'm all for mandatory vaccinations when the public health is at risk, especially in schools. However, the line, as Greg mentioned so well, is whether it's caught casually from an airborne substance, or sexually from some deviant.

Expect shots like this to become mandatory, because it seems that our beloved government endorses a lifestyle of one night stands for teenagers instead of a lifestyle of self-respect and control.

|| Posted by Eric Clemmons, May 23, 2006 09:28 AM ||

Stating that giving children this vaccination is going to automatically make them want to go out and have unprotected, free loving, orgies is not only ridiculous, it's childish to even aruge. Come on, there has NEVER been any evidence that supports this notion that just because teenagers or people hear, think, and learn about sex there going to desire it and need it right away. With the commonality of HPV in society and the fataliies of cervical cancer (even if that may be the sexually active part of society) I'd hope that people would be more concerned with protecting their children from this virus. The fact of the matter is, whether anyone likes it or not, people are going to engage in sexual activity. I guess what people may actually be worried about is they are losing a valuable scare tactic for abstinence. Don't worry people, you've still got pregnancy, AIDS, Syphillis, and a variety of other things you can use. You don't have to lose sleep. I'm sure the medical industry will slow down that cure for AIDS to make sure you've still got something to use (if you can't tell, I'm being sarcastic).
What I am trying to say is grow up. Merck is probably going to make some money, yeah? That's how American society works right? And going by your arguement, that this virus doesn't float on air, if children aren't engaging in sexual activity, then you've got nothing to worry about right? You won't lose face at the PTA and your child will be less likely to develop cervical cancer or genital warts in the long run. Why not eh?

|| Posted by Heidi, June 4, 2006 05:20 PM ||

Heidi -- did you even read what I wrote?

I nowhere made an argument that there would be "unprotected, free loving, orgies" if gardasil were made available, or even mandated, for young girls. Nice straw man (or should I call this one a "straw woman").

So might I suggest that you grow up, Heidi -- you discreditted the entire rest of your argument by using that crap.

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, June 4, 2006 05:34 PM ||

And Heidi -- if that pathetic rant is the best you can do, it speaks poorly of the quality of education available at Oregon State University.

By the way, did you note my introductory comment that I would choose to have my child receive Gardasil if my wife and I could have children? Did you notice that my only objection was to making it mandatory as a condition of getting an education? Did you notice that mine was the "pro-choice" argument?

|| Posted by Rhymes With Right, June 4, 2006 05:37 PM ||

Apologies for the "free loving...blah" I was basically responding to the commenter before me... I should have been more specific. You slapped me on the hand enough, thanks.

|| Posted by Heidi, June 4, 2006 06:11 PM ||
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