The Case Against Forced Vaccinationby Doug Mataconis
In Wednesday’s Washington Post, Courtland Milloy responds to readers who have criticized his stand against forcing parents to immunize their pre-teen daughters against the human papillomavirus (HPV):
Let’s get something straight: I am not against a vaccine that prevents strains of the human papillomavirus, as some readers have contended. Nor am I for cervical cancer, which is caused by the sexually transmitted HPV. However, as my previous column on this subject indicated, I am opposed to the government mandating the vaccine. I say leave the role of strong-arm drug pusher to the thugs on the street.
There is no reason that a voluntary program, based on an informed and sensitive health education campaign, would not work. New Hampshire, consistently one of the nation’s healthiest states, has a voluntary HPV vaccine program, with plans to vaccinate 63,000 girls ages 11 to 18 over the next four years.
Instead of forcing parents to vaccinate their children, New Hampshire health officials engage in a widespread education program directed at doctors, nurses, and, ultimately, parents aimed at educating them on the reasons why the HPV vaccine might be a good idea for their daughters:
The New Hampshire approach encourages residents to take more responsibility for their lives. With the government acting as partner — instead of some antebellum massa — parents are encouraged to make choices that are in the best interest of their children. And guess what? They usually do.
So far this month, about 3,300 doses of the HPV vaccine have been made available to the girls in New Hampshire. State health officials say they are receiving feedback and determining where demand is greatest and how soon to order more vaccine. “We are at the beginning of the process, but from the anecdotal evidence, there appears to be a great demand from parents,” Moore said.
And, while one can argue that the state shouldn’t be involved in the health education process at all, at least you can say that, in New Hampshire, when a parent chooses to have their daughter vaccinated against HPV, it is a voluntary choice made on the basis of informed opinion rather than a choice made because the government told you that you had to do it. There is something to be said in favor of that approach.
Of course, some will argue that New Hampshire’s lessons don’t apply to urban areas like D.C., but Milloy points out how wrong they are:
So are New Hampshire residents somehow smarter and better able to develop effective public health programs? Are they more concerned about their children than the rest of us? Hardly. What they have that we do not is the right attitude. They take their state motto seriously: “Live Free or Die,” while too many of us are content to live and die as slaves.
You’ve gotta love New Hampshire.