Forced Vaccination And Individual Liberty
Over the weekend, Texas Governor Rick Perry issued an executive order that will require all girls entering the sixth grade beginning in 2008 to receive the new vaccine against the virus that causes cervical cancer:
AUSTIN, Texas — Some conservatives and parents’ rights groups worry that requiring girls to get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way they raise their children.
By using an executive order that bypassed the Legislature, Republican Gov. Rick Perry _ himself a conservative _ on Friday avoided such opposition, making Texas the first state to mandate that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the virus.
Beginning in September 2008, girls entering the sixth grade will have to receive Gardasil, Merck & Co.‘s new vaccine against strains of the human papillomavirus, or HPV.
Perry also directed state health authorities to make the vaccine available free to girls 9 to 18 who are uninsured or whose insurance does not cover vaccines. In addition, he ordered that Medicaid offer Gardasil to women ages 19 to 21.
Perry, a conservative Christian who opposes abortion and stem-cell research using embryonic cells, counts on the religious right for his political base. But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.
“The HPV vaccine provides us with an incredible opportunity to effectively target and prevent cervical cancer,” he said.
Opponents say Perry should have let the Legislature decide whether to impose a mandate.
“He’s circumventing the will of the people,” said Dawn Richardson, president of Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education, a citizens group that fought for the right to opt out of other vaccine requirements. “There are bills filed. There’s no emergency except in the boardrooms of Merck, where this is failing to gain the support that they had expected.”
I’ve written about the issue of forced vaccination in the past, but the idea that the state should not force parents to innoculate their children against their will seems even stronger when you’re dealing with a virus like HPV, which cannot be considered a public health threat in the same way that, say, the influenza virus can. We don’t require people to get flu shots every year, why should we require parents to vaccinate their 11 year old girls against a disease that can only be spread through intimite sexual contact ?
I can’t think of a good reason either.
Unfortunately, there seems to be some degree of momentum behind the idea of mandatory HPV vaccination. The Virginia General Assembly, for example, is currently considering a bill that would impose bascially the same requirement as Governor Perry’s order. And nobody seems to be stopping and asking whether this is a good idea.