Mandatory Safe Sex II

The debate over Texas Governor Rick Perry's order to vaccinate young girls against the HPV virus is not going away. Members of the legislature are now attempting to override Perry's order, and court challenges are also in the works. Perry is standing his ground.

Today's Austin American-Statesperson reports some information I had not heard elsewhere. For some reason the story doesn't seem to be on the Statesperson web site, or at least I can't find it. I will summarize for you:

First, it seems that Merck's Gardisil vaccine will not be the only game in town for long. Another vaccine developed by GlaxoSmithKline is due out later this year. Analysts think HPV vaccines could be a $5 billion a year market. So now the rush makes perfect sense - Merck wants to get as many girls as possible started on their vaccine series before the competing product comes out. Merck, of course, says they are in a hurry only because lives are at stake, blah blah blah.

Second, the rush is extremely unusual. Other vaccines like chicken pox, which came out in the mid-1990s, were made mandatory only after several years of widespread use proved them to be safe and effective. Two vaccines for other dangerous adolescent diseases, meningitis and whooping cough, have not been made mandatory in Texas. Requiring HPV but not these others is more than a little bit odd, doctors say.

I don't think it is odd at all. The difference is that those vaccines, I suspect, do not face an imminent competitive threat and their manufacturers have not chosen to launch nationwide lobbying efforts to make them mandatory, as Merck has done for Gardisil.

Also today - and this one does appear in the online Statesperson - is a separate story about how some legislators want to require the HPV vaccine for boys as well as girls. Why is this, you may ask, since boys do not have cervixes that can develop cancer. You silly person. The girls are catching HPV from the boys, so we have to stop the virus at its source.

Of course, we could accomplish the same thing by teaching both girls and boys not to have sex with each other until they grow up. No vaccine is necessary and it is 100% effective with many beneficial side effects.

This method would, however, require parents to actually set limits on their children's behavior, which is way too much to ask for many baby boomer moms and dads. It is much easier to just give the kids a shot and then rent them a motel room to stay in after the prom.

Personally, I would like to see Perry's order overturned so parents can make the decision for themselves. I do not have much hope that will happen, but I'd like to be surprised. Stay tuned.

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