Yesterday, Texas governor Perry, did a good thing, ensuring the lives of girls in his state would be spared from the hideous disease of cervical cancer.
Bypassing the Legislature altogether, Republican Gov. Rick Perry issued an order Friday making Texas the first state to require that schoolgirls get vaccinated against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer.
By employing an executive order, Perry sidestepped opposition in the Legislature from conservatives and parents' rights groups who fear such a requirement would condone premarital sex and interfere with the way Texans raise their children.
As zuzu points out, Perry's plan also ensures that the uninsured and underinsured would be covered as well. She also points out that Perry's plan will make it easier for other states to follow suit, and help protect their female population.
But, the flap over Gardasil is hardly over. In fact, it's just getting started. Nor is opposition to it limited to Christian conservatives that feel giving a young woman this vaccine will promote promiscuity or the parental rights groups. We also have the oppose vaccines groups, and those with justifications like this.
I'm not a fan of forced vaccinations anyway, but in this case, it isn't needed for the prevention of the spread of a contagious disease.
A horrible, insidious disease that can kill, should be suffered by women because it is not a contagious disease? WTF? Even Gov. Perry, a Christian conservative, recognizes that the young women in his state should be spared this horrible disease.
But he has said the cervical cancer vaccine is no different from the one that protects children against polio.
Perhaps, a little enlightenment is in order, on the demographics of the disease. Ema posted this article on the demographics of cervical cancer the other day. Here are a few of the interesting findings.
For the period as a whole, the average annual incidence rate was highest among Hispanic women (14.8 per 100,000), followed by African American women (13.5 per 100,000). Rates among Asian or Pacific Islander women and white women were similar (8.9 per 100,000).
"We confirmed that in the United States there is a 50 percent higher incidence of cervical cancer among African-American (compared with white) and 66 percent higher incidence among Hispanic women (compared with non-Hispanic)," note the authors.
Cervical cancer rates rose with age for all groups. Among Hispanic women 40 years or older rates were 26.5 or more per 100,000; among African American women older than 50 years rates were 23.5 or more per 100,000 women.
The demographics of women with cervical cancer is not limited to race. We also have a geographical problem.
There were also geographic differences in cervical cancer rates, with higher rates of squamous cell carcinoma - the most common type of cervical cancer -- seen in the South than in other regions.
Gardasil does not prevent all forms of cervical cancer, but 70% of all cervical cancers is a pretty damn high number, that cannot be forgotten in this debate. The drop in cervical cancer incidences could be dramatic, something that should be celebrated, as was the drop in polio due to the polio vaccine.
The outrage should be directed at the cost of Gardasil, and the projected billions Merck could rake in, rather than why we should give young women the vaccine. I realize that part of Gov. Perry's motivating factor is his relationship with Merck. And this is true for all state governments.
Merck is bankrolling efforts to pass state laws across the country mandating Gardasil for girls as young as 11 or 12. It doubled its lobbying budget in Texas and has funneled money through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators around the country.
Perry has ties to Merck and Women in Government. One of the drug company's three lobbyists in Texas is Mike Toomey, Perry's former chief of staff. His current chief of staff's mother-in-law, Texas Republican state Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government.
The governor also received $6,000 from Merck's political action committee during his re-election campaign.
Here is where my conflict lies, with this vaccine. Yes, I believe that Merck should be pressing state legislatures to be pushing for this vaccine to be mandatory -- simply because the vaccine would dramatically reduce the incidence rate dramatically. But, this is not where the conflict ends. While Perry, in my opinion, rightly makes Gardasil mandatory, Merck is not doing anything with the $600+ price tag.
What we have here is a situation of greed vs saving women from a horrible disease. It is this huge price tag, that Merck has placed on Gardasil, that is outrageous. This is what people should be screaming about.