Monday, February 19, 2007

The HPV Vaccine Mandate

In case you've been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks or so, Governor Rick Perry recently mandated that Texas schoolgirls aged 11 and 12 will be required to recieve a vaccine against the Human Papillomavirus, the leading cause of cervical cancer, a disease which killed almost 400 Texas women last year alone. I've been trying to work out an opinion on this since I heard about the order. I think Shaun Mullen has a pretty good round-up of the pros and cons of this order:
Texas Governor Rick Perry's recent decision to require 11- and 12-year-old girls to be vaccinated has ignited a firestorm of controversy among conservative religious and sexual abstinence advocacy groups who claim the vaccine -- marketed as Gardasil by Merck & Co. -- will encourage young girls to have sex.

Civil liberties and anti-vaccine groups also have spoken out because of concerns that Gardasil is being forced on girls and is being introduced too quickly with little real-world experience beyond clinical trials.

Additionally, there are concerns about the expense of the vaccine – About $360 for a three-shot course -- and whether girls from poor families will be able to avail themselves of the drug.

The editors of the NY Times approve, but I'm not so sure. I'm by no means anti-vaccine, but at the same time, I worry about giving a relatively new vaccine to kids without considerably more clinical studies being done. I also don't like the fact that Merck has spent quite a bit of money in their efforts to get this measure adopted first by the Texas legislature, and then by Gov. Perry, and stand to rake in a hundreds of millions in the process by getting as many states as possible to adopt similar measures. That being said, the mere fact that Merck will make a lot of money doesn't mean it's not a good idea. It's simply one thing to consider. Another is the fact that the vaccine is highly effective at preventing a disease that many women don't know they have until it's too late.

That being said, I still haven't made up my mind. I welcome those who have to leave comments.

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