Saturday, January 26, 2008

Repealling the HPV Vaccine Requirements

Virginia is one of only a few states that has mandated the Gardisil HPV vaccination (only for girls) as a requirement for attending public school.

In my opinion, NO vaccines should be required, unless it is for a disease that is communicable through ordinary means in a normal classroom setting.

No matter how "good" we think it would be for a person to be vaccinated, medical treatment is NOT the purview of government. Government should not be allowed to legislate for "our own good".

In this case, there is virtually no possibility for a person to "catch" HPV simply by attending school (the chances are almost as small as catching HIV).

So the ONLY reason that can be given for REQUIRING the vaccine is to ensure that the children and their parents do what government thinks they should do.

Under that policy, there is no reason why Government shouldn't legislate a whole host of other things that government "knows" would be best for our children. We could require kids to eat according to the food pyramid, or to exercise an hour a day. We could mandate bedtimes, restrict internet access, or require they read a certain number of books each month.

Once you have decided that Government is supposed to tell people how to live their lives, there is no limit to the ways Government can interfere in personal liberty.

Is the HPV vaccination a good thing? Probably. If my child's doctor recommends it, we will consider it, although there is still a limited data set for this, and there are anecdotal reports of people dying right after getting vaccinated (two this week from England, three in a report last week, for the latest). There is nothing yet tying the deaths to the vaccine, and the medical community largely insists that there are no real risks to the vaccine.

But none of that matters when discussing making this vaccine mandatory. Even if it was proven that you could extend your life through some action, the government has NO RIGHT to require people to take that action, much less to order them to medicate themselves.

I wrote about this topic this week in my Potomac News column, which I had titled "HPV Vaccine, Don't delay it -- repeal it". The House of Delegates just overwhelmingly voted to delay the mandatory requirements for two years. The Senate should adopt this, but I want them to go further and repeal the thing.

Here are excerpts from my column:

"Today the governor signed legislation requiring that all children be in bed by nine p.m.'Studies show that children who do not get enough sleep are at significantly higher risk for illness,' the governor explained.'This bill goes a long way toward ensuring our children get enough rest, improving their health and possibly saving lives.' The law allows parents to request advance permission for a child to stay up late, on an exception basis. Children who violate the law will be prevented from attending school."
-- Nanny State News

Before anybody panics, I made that up (at least I hope I did). The government would never dictate how you should raise your children. Except that's exactly what Virginia did last year, passing a bill forcing children to get vaccinated for Human Papillomavirus (HPV) in order to attend public school, even though HPV does not spread by school-related contact.

Second, as Bob Marshall points out in requesting the delay, "It doesn't fit into the model for vaccines. You can't get it by shaking hands or sneezing." Generally, we require vaccinations to keep children from infecting other children, not simply because government thinks kids would be better off being treated. Requiring a vaccination for attendance only makes sense if unvaccinated children are a danger to others -- something clearly not the case for this particular disease.

Many vaccine supporters oppose mandatory requirements. The American Cancer Society refuses to endorse mandatory vaccinations for HPV. Even Merck, the drug's manufacturer, is no longer advocating mandatory vaccinations. An editorial in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) states "the rush to make HPV vaccination mandatory in school-aged girls presents ethical concerns and is likely to be counterproductive."


Opponents of the ban dismissed the risk of side effects -- "all of us who are cancer survivors and those of us who have daughters will take a rash any day over the prospect of cervical cancer," stated Del. Kristen J. Amundson. But Amundson doesn't need the mandate to get her daughter vaccinated. The question is whether other parents and children will have the same right to make their own decisions about the vaccine as Amundson is claiming for her family.


The government has no business forcing people to do what government thinks is best for them. Government's job is to protect us from one another, not from ourselves. Parents can decide about vaccination in consultation with their doctors, not on orders from the government.

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