Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Michigan HPV vaccine legislation.

A bipartisan, mostly female group of Michigan legislators is proposing that the HPV vaccine be mandated, now that it has been found that this vaccine, if given to young girls prior to the onset of sexual activity, will innure them against the cause of 70% of cervical cancers.

According to the plan, the vaccinations would be paid for, in most cases by patients' health insurance (as it is presently) and if the insurance chose not to cover it or if the patient was uninsured by the federal government's Vaccines for Children program.

Now, granted I've always been a little leery about anything that is actually mandated by government, but I'm scratching my head over why anyone would object to the intent of this bill.

Cervical cancer, which develops decades after exposure to the human papillomavirus kills thousands of women each year in America.

If the objection is based on cost, compare what the shots cost (about $360 right now, though that may go down if they are mass produced) to the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars that cancer can cost. And yes, in most cases either by medicare, medicaid or higher health insurance premiums, you are paying for the cost of these cancers.

If the objection is based on some outmoded conservative health care ideal that people should 'pay as they go,' I would point out that vaccinations against communicable diseases have always been considered differently even by conservatives in government-- after all, if a large number of people in a community are not vaccinated then they ultimately put other people, and the health of the community as a whole, at risk.

If the objection is based on the presumption that the vaccine will encourage young girls to have sex, then it is ridiculous from the outset. Not more than a few months ago, no one even knew that link between HPV and cervical cancer even existed. So the vaccine will at best only return girls to the point they were at before it was known. I mean, have you ever heard anyone base their decision on whether to have sex on whether they might get cancer in forty years? We as a society already arm our kids with the best knowlege we can give them, about pregnancy, HIV, herpes, syphilis and other STD's, as well as about birth control (including, but not exclusively including, abstinence. How is adding cancer to the mix going to change much? I don't think it will, not at all.

Further, if the objection is about sex it is also very misguided. The young woman in question will be subject to risk for HPV exposure whenever she first has sexual activity. She could be a virgin on her wedding night, and could still be at risk from her husband if she does not have the vaccine. So the objections by those who are worried about sex endangers not only the 'bad' girls, but also the 'good' girls just as much.

On top of all that, I reject the premise for not giving the vaccine, if it has anything to do with sex. This kind of thinking leads to people led by fear. And fear should never be used as a tool to get people to do what we want them to.


Anonymous said...

You're right about HPV and other sexual diseases and infections affecting both "bad" and "good" women. My friend's mother was a counselor for women with these diseases and she said that about 70% of her clientele had never had sex with anyone other than their husbands. Abstinence and fidelity are the only ways to completely stop STDs, but unfortunately there are a lot of deceptive partners spreading illnesses to those unsuspecting. Good news is that with the help of medical advances we can alleviate or eliminate these diseases. Good post, Eli!

shrimplate said...

Seems like vaccines like this are what you might call "preventative medicine," and that's an anti-Amerkin socialist plot to destroy the honor of our women folk, wouldn't you say?

Sorry for the sarcasm. Like yourself, I do not see how anybody would oppose legislation to innoculate women against cervical cancer.

But some people do. Which means our work is not yet done. Good post.