More on HPV

The new Texas law requiring girls to be immunized against viruses that cause cervical cancer reminded me of parents' orientation day at my son's Catholic school, when a large number of moms asked for forms allowing them to waive their children's vaccinations "for pro-life reasons."

This was news to me, but Right to Life of Michigan's Web site claims that some vaccines were developed with cell lines that originated with aborted babies. RTL's site notes that Church leaders declared receiving the vaccines morally permissible.

RTL also offers a list of non-fetal vaccines available, and I'll take that list with me to see if those are offered by our doctor when my son is up for his next round of boosters. I'll ask him to consider using those vaccines if they're not. But either way, I'll have my son vaccinated. Not to do so strikes me as endangering his health and that of other kids.

Which leads us to the Texas law that requires vaccination.

Tony Perkins and his ilk (see Cathleen Kaveny's post below) are all too predictably ranting about the vaccine's potential to lure kids into premarital sex. The "logic" of their argument is that having the vaccine could confuse kids into thinking they're protected against all STDs. All of which completely ignores the fact that parents have an obligation to provide clear moral guidelnes and health information to their children. Opposing the Texas law on the basis that it might encourage a teen to have sex implies to me that some parents are copping out on this obligation.

Moreover, the vaccine may protect girls and women against viruses that might be passed on by a sexual assailant or a philandering husband (or wife if the vaccination proves effective for boys, too).

Nonetheless, I think there are reasons a prudent parent might want to proceed with caution, but those reasons are not at the forefront of this debate--or at least the coverage of it.

I want to know, for example, how the vaccine was developed. RTL doesn't have info on its Web site yet.

I also want to know what the short- and long-term side effects of the HPV might be. Since my son was diagnosed with allergic asthma and ADD, two medications he has taken have been slapped with warnings, Advair and allergy meds containing phenylpropanolamine. We also use old-fashioned, low-dose Ritalin for ADD because the newer ADD drugs simply haven't been on the market long enough for long-term side-effects to have been assessed.

I'm also concerned, though this is unrelated to the efficacy of HPV, that the Texas law was, at least in part, rammed through with help from the vaccine manufacturer. This represents a new level in direct-to-consumer marketing that drug companies have found so effective; instead of creating a need for the drug through TV ads, let's just mandate it. Never mind that the vaccine isn't cheap for parents without health care--the HPV series of three, $120 shots could pose a hardship.

To allow fundamentalists like Perkins to co-opt the discussion over HPV does a disservice to parents trying to make wise decisions for their kids.

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