Washington State is planning to offer the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine free to girls. New Hampshire has made the vaccine available on an “opt in” basis. Florida’s Legislators are considering following Texas Governor Rick Perry in making the vaccine mandatory, with an “opt out” option, similar to the way that Hepatitis B and other mandated vaccines are regulated. (The vaccine would also have been mandatory under the bills that had been introduced in the Texas Legislature before the Governor’s Executive Order.)
Two letters (via email) concerning the HPV arrived since yesterday, one from the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the other from the American Academy of Family Physicians. There is also a newspaper article that covers the Statement of the Texas Medical Association. (I’m a member of each.) Another group forwarded the statement from the Catholic Medical Association.
All encourage the voluntary use of the HPV, because of the safety and efficacy of the vaccine and the ethical practice of preventing disease. And all discourage making the vaccine mandatory.
The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) statement is available online, but in “Macromedia FlashPaper” form, which I’ve never seen before. The statement is well thought out, with excellent ethics and medical basis. The short statement explained by the 5 page document is:
Does the CMA Support Use of the HPV Vaccine?
The CMA supports widespread use of Gardasil for girls and women in the age range for which the vaccine has been recommended by the ACIP, because it is effective, safe and ethical to use, provided certain conditions are met.
Those conditions include continued teaching concerning abstinence outside of marriage and allowing parents to give informed consent.
The Christian Medical and Dental Association gives the following analogies:
The condom, safe-sex message is like telling your teen not to speed and then giving them a radar detector. HPV vaccination is like telling your teen not to speed, while reminding them to wear their seat belt. You want them to have protection from harm if they are in an accident – whether their fault or not.
and for the Christian philosophical basis for the vaccine:
As Jesus taught us in the story of the woman caught in adultery, Scripture teaches that we can/should show compassion by protecting others from the consequences of sin (while not endorsing sin or promoting continued sin). Facing death by stoning, Jesus protected her and offered forgiveness before calling her to a path of righteousness. He showed grace and compassion, not requiring her to commit to some standard prior to offering protection.
The American Academy of Family Physicians‘ (AAFP) email contained concerns about the ability to fund the vaccine and to obtain enough vaccine to administer it to all the eligible girls. The AAFP already had a provisional statement, but the move in several states, including Texas, to make the vaccine mandatory prompted the following:
“The AAFP feels it is premature to consider school entry mandates for HPV vaccine until such time as the long term safety with widespread use, stability of supply, and economic issues have been clarified.”
Recently, there has been increasing state level action considering mandating HPV vaccination with proof of vaccination required for school attendance among other mandates. Upon review of the situation, the Commission on Science felt that this usage does not fit the classic public health model for infectious diseases such as measles. Several issues arise when considering a mandated school entry requirement. These include:
HPV does not adhere to the public health model for control of infectious disease in a school setting. (e.g. measles, chicken pox)
Universal school entry requirement would come at a cost of approximately $900 million per year to provide coverage for the female birth cohort (2 million girls: $120 per dose plus $25 administration fee; 3 doses). This would be a significant burden on state public health budgets.
There would have to be an assurance of supply of 6 million HPV doses per year to meet the school entry cohort. Given the recent experience with shortages of new vaccines such as the MCV4 for meningitis and Thimerosal-free influenza vaccine for three year olds, it is not clear that this new vaccine could be produced in adequate amounts to meet such demand at this time.
As with the costs for public health departments, there is concern that physician practices may not be able to afford such a large scale requirement at this time.
The Texas Medical Association leaders gave interviews to reporters concerning their reaction to the Governor’s Executive order.
“We support physicians being able to provide the vaccine, but we don’t support a state mandate at this time,” said Dr. Bill Hinchey, a San Antonio pathologist and president-elect of the TMA, which represents 41,000 physicians. “There are issues, such as liability and cost, that need to be vetted first.”
Other reasons cited by doctors in Texas and across the country include the vaccine’s newness; supply and distribution considerations; the possibility opposition could snowball and lead to a reduction in other immunizations; the possibility it could lull women into not going for still-necessary cervical cancer screenings; gender-equity issues; and the tradition of vaccines starting as voluntary and becoming mandatory after a need is demonstrated.
Hinchey said that TMA leadership expressed their concerns to Perry on Tuesday. He said the TMA arrived at its position after debating the issue in committees in recent days.
A spokeswoman for Perry reiterated Tuesday that the governor stands by the order. She said he is listening to the discussion but thinks the vaccine is safe and effective.