Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The HPV Vaccine and the Presidential Debates

Governor Perry of Texas was criticized by Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann at the Republication presidential candidate’s debate last night for signing an executive order in Texas mandating that young girls be vaccinated against HPV, the sexually-transmitted virus that is responsible for most cases of cervical cancer. The vaccine is effective if it is given BEFORE a woman is sexually active. Health officials believe that if all women were vaccinated before becoming sexually active, cervical cancer rates would drop dramatically.

Congresswoman Bachmann took the position that the vaccine is unsafe. There is no evidence to support her claim, and her stance on the vaccine’s safety cost her some credibility today. However she did score some points when she reported that Governor Perry has received campaign funds from the drug company that makes the vaccine.

Congresswoman Bachmann also took the position that the government should not force vaccinations on citizens who don’t want them. That’s a valid position, of course. But she missed the fact that governor Perry’s “mandate” is actually not a firm mandate at all; parents can still choose to have their daughters opt out if they wish. And to his discredit, governor Perry failed to point the opt-out provision to her during the debate.

Ah, the presidential debates. Usually I’m bored by them, but perhaps this year will be different.

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