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The Gross National Debt

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media)

I have an hour or so to post this diary so forgive me any misspellings in my haste to get this done and posted.

I generally watch Countdown with Keith Olbermann at 8pm on weeknights. Last night, however, I was out running errands at that time. MSNBC is not included in my Sirius Radio news coverage, so I was stuck listening to CNN's Paula Zahn Now (which I usually dislike). I heard an interview that almost made me drive off the road as I was traveling from point A to point B.

The subject was the cervical cancer vaccine. The arguments against this vaccine constitute some of the most egregious dreck I have ever heard. Follow me.

I had to wait until today after some morning meetings for the transcript to be available. Let's start there.

Now, if there were a vaccine that would protect your child from a kind of cancer that kills thousands of people every year, chances are, you would make sure your child gets it.

But the next story we're bringing out in the open is not that simple, because it involves sex, parents' rights, and women's health. The governor of Texas has just signed an order to require girls in sixth grade to get the vaccine for HPV, the virus that causes cervical cancer. And 18 other states are considering doing the same thing.

Ed Lavandera has story tonight from Dallas.


JULIANNE JACOBS, STUDENT: You should do it before you're sexually active.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Julianne Jacobs is ahead of the class, one of the first young girls in Texas to receive a vaccine against the human papillomavirus. HPV is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause cervical cancer.

The federal government says, the recently approved vaccine can prevent most types of cervical cancer. Julianne's parents have told her it's not a free pass to start having sex.

JACOBS: And, because, you know, that vaccine doesn't guarantee -- guarantee safety. It can still -- you can still get past it, and you could get that disease, even if you have the vaccination.

LAVANDERA: But, when Texas Governor Rick Perry signed an executive order, making it mandatory starting in September of 2008 for sixth-grade girls to receive the vaccine, many parents were angry.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government should let parents make their own decisions for things like this.

Oh yes? I beg to differ. The school district where I live requires the following:

- A physical examination prior to registration
- DPT, DTaP, Td, DT (diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus)
- Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and acellular pertussis)
- OPV, IPV (polio)
- MMR (measles, mumps, rubella)
- Hepatitis B
- Varicella (chicken pox)
- HIB (Haemophilus influenzae type B)
- PCV (Pneumococcal 7-valent conjugate)
- Tuberculosis screening

All of the above represent an attempt by the state to safeguard students from communicable diseases that are a danger to the public health and welfare. Should a parent be able to decide that their child receive or not receive a vaccination and place another child at risk in so doing? I don't think so.


LAVANDERA: Dawn Richardson is lobbying Texas lawmakers against making the vaccine mandatory, and also has a daughter of her own.

DAWN RICHARDSON, LOBBYIST AND PARENT: There's no proof that this vaccine is going to affect the rates of cervical cancer, because the vaccine is being administered to 11-year-old girls. It's only been tested for four years.

LAVANDERA: The FDA says, the vaccine is safe and effective, requiring three shots over a six-month period. But some critics worry that making the vaccine mandatory will promote premarital sex, instead of abstinence.

PETER SPRIGG, VICE PRESIDENT FOR POLICY, FAMILY RESEARCH COUNCIL: We feel it's very important that people not be told that this is a vaccine that will make it safe to have sex.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Governor Perry is a staunch conservative. And he says this idea protects life and promotes women's health. And he says parents will ultimately be allowed to decide whether or not their daughters get this vaccine. They can apply to opt out of if they object to it for religious or moral reasons.

(voice-over): The Republican governor is receiving support from unlikely places, Planned Parenthood and even many Democrats, who see this strictly as a public health issue.

BINGO. It's the sex, stupid!! So even though researchers are working hard to develop a vaccine to prevent or lessen the instances of HIV contraction, kids shouldn't be able to have it because (GASP!!) it's promoting SEX!!! (cue fire and brimstone)

Now get a load of the discussion with the panel of experts:

ZAHN: There are 10,000 cases of cervical cancel -- cancer, that is, every year, 4,000 deaths.

Out in the open tonight: the controversy over requiring sixth- grade girls to get the HPV vaccine to prevent the sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer.

Texas has just started requiring the shots -- 18 other states also considering it.

Let's go back to tonight's "Out in the Open," panel, Clarence Page, with his mike on -- yes -- Tara Wall [RNC mouthpiece], Rachel Maddow.

ZAHN: So, Clarence, should this be mandatory...

PAGE: I think...

ZAHN: ... and made mandatory by state government?

PAGE: You know, what troubles me is making it mandatory before the public is adequately educated, because I saw what happened with Roe vs. Wade, which I personally support as a decision.

But I saw the backlash, which we're still feeling politically across the country, because it was imposed on the country. This is a very personal thing. Whenever government gets into something as personal as, say, 12-year-olds, like -- like, my 12-year-old niece, mandating that she has got to get a shot that many people think is connected to sexual promiscuity -- I don't think it is.

ZAHN: Sure.

I don't know what I think about Page's argument. Frankly, if the fundamentalist MINORITY in the US weren't screaming bloody murder about protecting women from CANCER for Christ's sake, there wouldn't be an education issue (as Page put it).

PAGE: But so many people think that, we obviously need a lot of public educating out there. So, it troubles me to do it do it too quickly.

ZAHN: But, even with public education...


ZAHN: ... there is a strong view that you're promoting promiscuity. There are people think, since this vaccine has been around only for four years, that it really won't convincingly reduce rates of cervical cancer. So, what difference is it going to make if there's a time lag before you make it mandatory?

MADDOW: It's -- well, here's the thing.

If we were talking about a vaccine for any other kind of cancer, as a person in your previous segment described, we would be singing hallelujah right now. But the fact that this is a disease that is spread by sexual contact, human papillomavirus, which leads to cervical cancer, all of a sudden, we get hysterical and lose the ability to think reasonably about this.


MADDOW: Once you bring up sex, we lose all public health rationality about this.

And, so, I think that, really, what you need to consider is whether or not this going to be treated as a public health and safety issue, or whether this is going to be another thing about which we have a hysterical sex conversation involving teenagers, because we can't -- we have that debate.

THANK YOU Rachel Maddow. If you would like to thank her as well, you can use this form. Maddow nets it out - it's all about dirty nasty SEX and a vaccine somehow giving carte blanche to young women to have it.

ZAHN: But you know it will be a little bit of both of them.


WALL: Listen -- listen, you talk not having the buy-in, and the public not having the buy-in of the legislature. The governor did this on his won [sic].

The governor, whom I respect -- and, actually, he's my governor. I voted for him. But he's wrong.


ZAHN: He's a conservative governor. He is your governor.

WALL: He is. He has been a very good conservative governor.

But he's wrong on this issue. As my mother says, a person can be sincere, but they can be sincerely wrong.


MADDOW: How can a vaccine for cancer be wrong?

And here we go.

WALL: There's -- there's no -- there's no -- there was no parental -- you're usurping parental rights. You're usurping the legislature.


WALL: Make it an opt-in, as opposed to an opt-out. There is an opt-out provision, of course.

I'm not a legal expert - but I found this article that talks generally about the legal basis for mandatory vaccines and it states pretty clearly that the process and procedure is ALWAYS to opt-out, NOT opt-in. What a ridiculous argument on Wall's behalf, that flies in the face of how every other religious or moral issue with a vaccine is handled.

ZAHN: Sure.

WALL: But why not make it an opt-in, as opposed to an opt-out.

See above. See the law. See a bunch of cases. But most importantly, see a shrink - because that's the only thing that's going to help you explain why you don't want to protect women from contracting cancer.

MADDOW: Would you do that for measles? Would you do that for rubella? Would you do that for polio? Would you do that for...


WALL: This has to do with a very sensitive...


MADDOW: With sex.

WALL: Absolutely -- issue...

MADDOW: Right.

WALL: ... that is a family issue, that parents need to discuss with their children amongst themselves, and not to have the government impose upon them.

MADDOW: How has that been working so far?


WALL: That's not for the government to decide.


ZAHN: If you want to see how it's working so far, I want you all to look at the screen right now...

Here's where it gets good. Facts are a bitch, aren't they?

ZAHN: ... because this is a staggering statistic.

This is the incidence of HPV hitting young kids in this 14- to 19-year-old age group. We know that about a third of kids that are 13 to 16 are sexually active.

So, do you think parents have their heads in the sand?


PAGE: Well, of course, yes. Parents do have their head in the sands about sex and drugs. We know that.

But there's also the question about, do parents who want to take responsibility for their kids, should they be entitled to have opt-out or opt-in choices? I think that is really what at issue here.


PAGE: You talk about rubella and several other contagious diseases which you can catch without having sex, I mean, there's a reason to want to control a contagion that travels in the air, and -- and to mandate that.

Point of fact: Hepititis B is not transmitted in the air yet is mandated in (I think) 35 states.

MADDOW: But look at that figure.


PAGE: When you're talking about something that is more personal -- well, look at the figures...

MADDOW: This is -- it's endemic.


MADDOW: If you're a teenager having sex, basically, you're going to get HPV.


PAGE: Just to play devil's advocate, which I'm very good at...

WALL: But what if you're not having sex?


WALL: What if you're not having sex?


WALL: There are plenty of teenagers out there who -- who -- who have had discussion with their parents who choose to remain abstinent or virgins until they're married, until... (CROSSTALK)

ZAHN: But you know what the manufacturers...


ZAHN: Hang on one second. The manufacturers of the vaccine say, that's a good thing...

Oooh!! Here come those pesky facts again.


ZAHN: ... because they said that the vaccine is more effective when you're inoculated before you start having sex.


WALL: Well, the other factor is -- and my mother is a nurse as well. And some of the issues that are being raised is how new this is. It hasn't been tested and tried. It needs to be given some time.

The other portion, again, opt-in, not make an opt-out. Let parents decide. This is the government assuming parents don't know what's best for their children. I think that's a little bit elitist.

Ah... So it ISN'T about sex? It's about the relative newness of the drug itself and the safety of the drug? I thought it was about family decisions and the distinction between opting in and opting out... Silly me.

The fundamentalist Christian groups who oppose this vaccine are essentially making this argument: If you weren't having sex, you wouldn't contract HPV and possibly contract and die from cervical cancer. And if you ARE having sex and get HPV and contract cervical cancer, you deserve to die.

How's that for values? Jesus weeps.

posted by RenaRF at 12:38 PM 2 comments


Blogger James said...

Can you cross post this at TexasKaos? There's some healthy debate over this there and you'll get some great feedback.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does getting a vaccine that can prevent cancer make your daugher a whore? What if there was a vaccine that prevented testicular cancer and was most effective if given before your son was sexually active? Does Jesus hate sex? Does Jesus hate science? Should I go to a doctor or just pray not to get sick? How many young people have to die for making a mistake to satisfy your bloodlust?

1:59 PM  

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