One of my goals is to translate between the pro-life and pro-family community that has a religious background and those who do not necessarily count themselves as religious. Sometimes, it seems that’s all I do.
Governor Rick Perry evidently surprised most of the world with his brave move concerning a vaccination against Human Papilloma Virus, a group of sexually transmitted viruses that cause abnormal pap smears and cervical cancer. While he follows a 2003 law, he has been criticized by the Family Policy Center, the American Association of Physicians and Surgeons and many Texas conservatives. Even the Republican Party of Texas issued a statement calling on him to rescind his Executive Order.
Although I normally agree with these groups, I think they are wrong in this case. The Christian Medical and Dental Association agrees with me. And Governor Perry, since he went so far in his EO to protect the right of parents to “opt out.”
The vaccine will not interfere with our efforts to teach and encourage our children to abstain from sex outside of marriage. In fact, I hope that by giving the vaccination before 6th grade, younger children will be less likely to connect the vaccine with sexual activity and will be protected when they do have sex for the first time. The fact that the vaccine is so necessary could also be used to teach the fallacy of “safer sex.”
The research showed that younger girls show stronger immune responses to the vaccine than older girls and women. And logically, vaccines only work before contracting the disease. (Edit 8/17/11 see table 18, here, for information about studies in girls 9 to 15.)
Studies of teen girls have shown that over 2 years, 40% to 80% of them will become positive for HPV, and over 10% of them will have the high risk virus, HPV 16, that is associated with over 50% of cervical cancers. Admittedly, the infected girls must be exposed. However, contrary to popular opinion, the viruses can be spread by the hands during heavy petting.
Besides the pain and cost of the cancers and the 400 deaths per year in Texas from cervical cancer, however, there is the cost of the early precancerous changes from the viruses. There are the every three to six month repeat paps and HPV tests, the freezing and lasers, and the weakened cervices that can result in premature labor.
Gardasil, while new, is produced the same way most insulin for diabetics is manufactured these days: by recombinant DNA. It’s not a weakened or killed virus, isn’t grown in human tissues and doesn’t contain mercury. The vaccine contains copies of antigens that are part of the outside covering of the virus, not the DNA that causes infection and cancer. Vaccinated patients make antibodies against four strains that cause the most harm.
In contrast, the last two vaccines mandated for schoolchildren in Texas are manufactured using human tissue cultures that resulted from abortions. Many parents object to the “Chicken Pox” Varicella and Hepatitis A vaccines – although the children were not aborted in order to obtain the vaccine, and there is some ethical support for accepting the vaccines because the unethical act is isolated from the intention and act of the vaccine.
(Edit: The Hepatitis B vaccine is also made by recombinant DNA, and not one of the un-ethical methods. This was added to strengthen the case for the safety of the recombinant technique, similar to the evidence due to the wide spread use of insulin from recombinant DNA. I could have added that Hepatitis B is another virus that is unlikely to be spread by casual contact in school. That fact is also true of another mandated vaccine for Tetanus – what we used to call “lock jaw.”)
The vaccine against Hepatitis B, which is spread by blood and bodily fluids, has been mandated for school children in Texas since 1998.
The Texas Legislature gave the Governor the power that he exercised as the head of the Executive Branch: the power to regulate the Medical Board and the Department of State Health Services. The Legislature has passed law as recently as 2003 that allows the Department and Board to add vaccines as they deem them necessary.
The Governor’s language strongly promotes the parental right to “opt out” and orders the Department to make the “opt out” provision available on the Internet. Currently, parents have to make a request in writing for an affidavit, which has to be notarized and then delivered to the Department – eventually the Department mails the exemption to the parent. (Can you imagine? There’s no way we could have ever managed to get parental consent forms this complicated or the process so convoluted for abortions.) The Governor’s language would make the opt out process easier.
Governor Perry’s Executive Order: here.
The Texas Education Code: here.
Gardasil prescribing information: here.
Statement from the Christian Medical And Dental Association: here.