Should the Governor prescribe medicine?
For several days, I have been reading and watching the reaction to Governor Perry”s decision to issue an Executive Order requiring that school-age girls be vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection.
Like many across the state seem to, I have seriously mixed feelings about this issue.
On the positive side, HPV has been found in st
udy after study to be linked to cervical cancer. The theory is that vaccinating against HPV can help prevent the cancer, and anything we can do to keep Texas women from contracting a cancer is a good thing. There is no question about that. Any help the government can lend to the goal of eradicating cancer of any type should be embraced.
Having said that…
The order itself, along with the manner in which it was passed muddies the waters a bit.
First and foremost, I have to confess that I was disturbed that the one company, Merck, who actively manufactures an FDA-approved HPV vaccine, just happened to donate money to Gov. Perry”s campaign. I”m not saying that he is trying to thank the company for their donation by ponying up our children as guinea pigs for their new drug. In fact, I think he”s not. Regardless, it doesn”t quite pass the smell test.
The order does allow for parents to opt out of having their daughters vaccinated for religious, medical or personal reasons. That”s a good thing.
But looking at Merck”s website, I found that the company harps on two points over and over again.
The first point they make (repeatedly) is that only a doctor or health care professional can say whether this vaccine is right for women or girls.
“Only a health care professional…”
Not the Governor – unless of course the Governor happens to be a health care professional, which, to the best of my knowledge, Gov. Perry is not. It”s a simple concept, really. My doctors prescribe my medications. My dentist cleans my teeth. My accountant does my taxes and my mechanic fixes my car. My politicians are there to make laws and oversee the function of my government – not to oversee the function of my body. We wouldn”t want our dentist trying to fix our cars (sorry, Doc), or our accountants cleaning our teeth, so why on earth would we accept a politician telling us what is medically sound? That does not make sense.
The second point that Merck harped about over and over is that people who are allergic to the ingredients of the vaccine should not be treated with it. That, too, makes perfect sense. However, it took me more than half an hour to find out what ingredients are in the vaccine. And I couldn”t begin to tell you whether I”m allergic to them, because most of them, I”ve never heard of before. I”m just guessing here, but I suspect that most Texans are in the same, or at the very least a similar boat.
Taking the company”s own two points into consideration, I would suggest that every parent in Texas go ahead and opt out of the program pending discussion with their doctor. After all, you can opt out for personal reasons, and the health of your child is just about as personal as it gets.
Gov. Perry”s order does not really address who is going to pay for these vaccinations, or what it will cost the State (more to the point, the taxpayers). I think these are two critical points to discuss before we go ordering medications for all of our kids.
There is great promise to a vaccination that has the potential to stop cancer. I don”t deny that. But I don”t think that taking a medication that is still in a reasonably experimental phase and giving it to hundreds of thousands of Texas children, without really knowing what long-term side effects might result, is the way to go. We need more research. We need more information.
I am pleased to report that both of our representatives to the State Legislature, Rep. Patrick Rose and Sen. Glenn Hegar, are both in support of the Executive Order being repealed. Hegar, in fact, filed legislation to that end early this week. I”m proud of them for standing up and saying “Hey, Governor. This decision should be going through the Legislature and we have a great many things we need to talk about before we make this choice.”
I hope Gov. Perry listens.