27 Mar Mandated HPV Vaccinations Pose Challenge to Parental Rights
Mandated HPV Vaccinations Pose Challenge to Parental Rights
March 27, 2007
Despite the eradication of many diseases, the 21st century is a difficult time for parents, grandparents and others entrusted with the care and guardianship of children. We must be constantly vigilant as national and international trends challenge our rights to oversee the nurturing and care of our children.
Front and center today is the attempt by state governments in the United States to mandate Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccinations for young girls, directly challenging parental rights. On Tuesday, the Conservative Government of Canada included in its budget proposal $300 million for these vaccinations. The proposal calls for each province or territory to determine whether or not vaccinations would be mandatory or voluntary.
Let’s set the stage for this controversy. In June 2006, the U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended HPV vaccinations for girls ages 11 and 12. Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry set off a firestorm of controversy when he issued an executive order mandating that all females entering the sixth grade receive the vaccine, with some exceptions, for the prevention of HPV. Many parents were furious, and Texas House Bill 1098 was introduced in an attempt to overturn the executive order.
More than half of U.S. states are now attempting to mandate or legislate vaccination requirements for girls as young as 11.
HPV can only be contracted through sexual activity and is America’s most common sexually transmitted infection. The virus is most frequent among U.S. women in their early 20s, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The disease causes genital warts, cervical dysplasia and occasionally cervical cancer. The infection typically disappears within two years, and most infected people don’t even realize they have the virus. This vaccination addresses just four of the more than 100 types of HPV.
There was a time when vaccinations served the public interest in an attempt to prevent polio and other diseases contracted through no fault of their own. Now we see governments attempting to force vaccinations upon people for behavior which can be prevented. The HPV vaccine does not prevent all forms of cervical cancer, but it may give a false sense of security while encouraging risky behavior.
Mandating vaccinations for this disease is a very troubling attack on parental rights. It clearly undermines parents’ authority to determine their children’s health care and it inhibits their ability to encourage positive child behavior. Many parents fear that requiring the vaccination, like compulsory “safe-sex” education, sends the wrong message to students.
Vaccinations may give a false sense of safety leading to higher sexual activity, risking disease and pregnancy. Furthermore, vaccinations are not necessary for every girl, many of whom abstain sexually until marriage and will not be subject to the risk of STDs. Certainly, when government requires a vaccination to prevent a disease that can be completely avoided by abstinence it undercuts the importance of abstinence programs that are also government funded.
The vaccinations are costly, approaching $1,000 in some regions. Of valid concern to parents is the fact that the only vaccine currently approved, marketed by Merck under the name Gardasil, has not been tested for pre-teens. The attempt to fast-track this drug for marketing raises significant ethical questions. Taxpayer-supported public schools could punish students for non-compliance and incur resulting legal actions. Mandatory vaccines would result in windfall profits for Merck.
Two prominent organizations are calling for restraint on mandatory vaccinations:
The American College of Pediatricians is opposed to “any legislation which would require HPV vaccination for school attendance. This would amount to a precedent-setting action that trespasses on the right of parents to make medical decisions for their children as well as on the rights of the children to attend school. Most 9-12 year old children are not sexually active; many have not entered puberty. Forcing a parent to forsake his/her better judgment and discuss this information with the child would be inappropriate and unnecessarily intrusive.”
The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), a leading vaccine safety and informed consent advocacy organization, is urging state legislatures to investigate the safety and cost of mandating Merck’s HPV vaccine for all pre-adolescent girls before introducing legislation amending state vaccine laws. NVIC reports that testing of the drug resulted in numerous health problems, including loss of consciousness, seizures, arthritis joint pain and Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
The National Conference of State Legislatures carries a complete list of legislative action on HPV vaccines. Check your state and contact your lawmakers to voice your concerns about the problems with forced vaccinations.
Additionally, parents may want to consider discussing human sexuality with their children in a way that is consistent with their family’s values at a time they deem appropriate. Parental involvement is highly important in an era when schools often portray human sexuality to children in ways that families find inappropriate.