Virginia considers requiring girls to get HPV vaccine
Posted Sep 12 2008 12:00pm
A bill has been introduced in Virginia that would require girls to receive their first vaccination against HPV prior to their entry into middle school, or have parents apply for an exemption after reading the literature on and being educated about the vaccine. The bill would add HPV to the list of immunizations needed for school attendance, and make the state one of the first to require the vaccine.
On the face of this, it sounds good - but digging a bit further in to it, a few questions are raised. While I initially wanted to cheer to see that a Republican was sponsoring the bill, it turned to dismay and, well, suspicion as I read the following: Hamilton said pharmaceutical company representatives approached him about submitting the bill, probably because he chairs the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions. Drug companies have been among the largest contributors to Hamilton's election campaigns.
So the companies that have financed most of his campaigns now want him to make a vaccine, which is not covered by all insurance companies (and runs around $350), mandatory for all girls?
Hmm. Strikes me as a bit ethically questionable.
Of course, one thing that many people are saying is ethically questionable is vaccinating girls against a sexually transmitted disease, something that doesn't raise any questions for me. Why? Here are a couple of reasons:
1) At the age people are talking about (9-13), most kids aren't being given specific and detailed information about what the shots they're receiving do - it's just part of the evils of going to the doctor. It's not like anyone is sitting down saying "alright, now you won't get measles, mumps, or cervical cancer so you can be sexually promiscuous now!"
2) Hepatitis B is a required immunization, and is sexually transmitted (among other ways)
3) We're talking something that kills. There are 10,000 new cervical cancer cases diagnosed every year, and something like 3500 women die every year. Given that we know most people do not abstain from sex until marriage (and we know this has been true for a long time), safety really seems like it should trump anything else. Or put another way: do you want to be the parent whose daughter tells you she has cervical cancer, knowing you could have prevented it through three simple shots?
I know parents hope that their children will adhere to their morals, and I support teaching your children your values and beliefs. But I also think there's the necessity to be realistic; if you can prevent disease via a combination of teaching morals and actual protection, why would you choose otherwise?
I remain skeptical of Hamilton's motivations for proposing this bill, but I suppose that sometimes, the ends do justify the means.