Decisions about what government can do for (and to) citizens need to be placed in an appropriate perspective. In Virginia and 17 other states, lawmakers are considering requiring young girls to be immunized against a little-known virus that public health officials say is responsible for nearly 7,000 cases of cervical cancer each year. Legislatures are doing so at the urging of New Jersey-based pharmaceutical giant Merck & Co., which in June earned approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for Gardasil, its new vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV). Suffice it to say that Merck stands to earn millions, if not billions, if its efforts to require the vaccination of female children are successful nationally.
There are two specific points here; first, this virus is transmitted by sexual activity, so why not require the vaccination for young boys too? (Just think how popular that would be with the electorate). Or better yet, why not vaccinate just boys and leave the little girls alone? If the contentions about this vaccine are correct, these male devils, eventually fueled by Viagra (does Merck have an erectile dysfunction drug?), will have a heck of a lot more sexual partners than the little girls over the course of a lifetime. As they sow their wild oats, they will also convey the virus to every sexual contact they make unless they have been vaccinated. Thousands of young women died or were maimed by blood clotting from the side effects of birth control pills and intrauterine devices, so why not let little boys take the inevitable risks of being exposed to another pharmaceutical product this time? (Author's note; I am not a 'manophobe' as I have four wonderful grandsons in addition to four wonderful granddaughters. I am just trying to make a point here).
Second, what level of risk to the general population is required to trigger, absent the obvious profit motive of Merck in contributing financially to politicians, governmental action to protect the electorate? It is said that nearly 7000 women a year will develop cervical cancer as a result of the transmission of this virus. Let's talk about Texas inasmuch as it is the first state to mandate the use of the vaccine in young girls, not boys. As large as that state is, it is obvious that a figure substantially smaller than the total of 7000 will be "protected" from cancer. A generous estimate might be that less than 500 young Texas girls in the entire state are at annual risk if this vaccine is not administered to the entire young girl population. While there is no intent whatsoever to deman a young woman who has a diagnosis of cervical cancer, oftentimes the treatment is simple outpatient surgical ablation of cervical tissue. In short in many cases it is a minor procedure. But in fairness, the disease does have its victims and the figures suggest that it is important to diagnose and treat the disease early. The mortality rate for cervical cancer is stated to be:
2.7 white women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
5.9 African American women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
2.9 Asian American and Pacific Islander women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
2.0 American Indian and Alaska Native women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
3.7 Hispanic Latino women per 100,000 in the US 1996-2000 (SEER Cancer Statistics Review, National Cancer Institute, 1975-2000)
A brief purview of these statistics suggest that certain ethnic groups are at greater risk which carries with it the implication that these groups deserve better medical care than they are currently receiving. Perhaps the millions of dollars that Texas (and other states) are willing to spend to expose millions of young girls to the risks, known and unknown, of this vaccine (Yes Virginia, there are risks) would be better committed to the provision of a higher quality of medical care to these ethnic groups.
By way of comparison, Texas is the state with the second most drunk driving deaths of any state, having been edged out of first place by California in 2005. At least 1500 people each year since 1982 have died in alcohol-related traffic accidents in Texas. Do the math. That's more than 36,000 deaths! This is illustrative of a problem which is a national disgrace several degrees of magnitude greater than cervical cancer. All states have similar numbers proportional to the size of their respective populations. There is a drug called Antabuse which will make a person ill, nauseated, flushed, headache, etc. if alcohol is ingested while taking the drug. I propose putting Antabuse in the nation's drinking water. The stockholders of another pharmaceutical house, Wyeth, would love it.