Friday, February 02, 2007

Vaccinations and big government?

Texas Governor Rick Perry's social conservative credentials are not at issue, so he's relatively safe from the evangelical Right's wrath when signing an order mandating that Texas schoolgirls get vaccinated for human papilloma virus, aka HPV -- the cause of a type of cervical cancer. Is this just a boondoggle for Merck, which makes the vaccine (Disclosure: The Monk owns all of about 45 shares of Merck)? The wire service story linked to this post certainly plays up that angle. Is it a case of government acting instead of parents?

Long ago we ceded to the government the authority to tell us when we had to be vaccinated for public health reasons, and that is a logical decision. Vaccinations all but destroyed smallpox and all but eradicated polio. I do not want individual decisions on whether to get vaccinated to endanger me or my family. And neither I nor any other American should be saddled with the costs of treating someone who contracts a preventable disease but refused to take the requisite shots ahead of time. In other words, if you never had an MMR shot but go to Ukraine, you should be paying your hospital bills for rubella out of pocket when you return to the US, without insurance coverage (Ukraine has an inordinate number of rubella cases -- and that's just from the available data in the more developed areas of the country). That's the Consequence Corollary to your refusal to be vaccinated = you deal with the consequence.

Men can carry HPV, but won't get cervical cancer for obvious physiological reasons. Women can carry HPV, and it can kill them. The ways to contract HPV are all sexual in nature -- sexual intercourse is the main cause, naturally, but also potentially just contact with someone who has a venereal disease can transmit HPV. People with genital warts often have HPV, but do not exactly broadcast their lack of cleanliness to the world. Given these facts, Perry's decision is entirely defensible.

Doctors have been searching for the cure for cancer for decades. For one cancer, they found a prophyllactic that will prevent the cancer's inception. People will engage in sexual activity no matter what a given segment of society believes should or should not occur. In other words, Texans should take the medicine.

No comments: