Tuesday, February 06, 2007

It's not really about sex

On Friday, the governor of Texas announced he would require the relatively new HPV vaccine for all girls entering the sixth grade. The move has some people up in arms, saying it encourages girls to have premarital sex or that Gov. Rick Perry made the decision because of his connections to Merck, the makers of the Guardasil vaccine.
Yes, Merck has a lot to gain by pushing governors and state legislators to require the vaccination. At $360 for a course of three injections, the company stands to make billions of dollars. The company’s motives certainly aren't selfless, but really, $360 is a lot less expensive than months of cancer treatments and the loss of affected women’s fertility.
As far as the issue of premarital sex, I knew this was going to be a problem when I first heard about the vaccine months ago. The decision to vaccinate one's daughter can bring up some unsettling thoughts.
First, the vaccine's maker calls for girls to be vaccinated between the ages of 9 and 26, and really, earlier is considered better. Apparently, sixth-grade was picked as the hallmark in Texas because most girls aren't sexually active before that age.
If I were a parent of an 11-year-old, the last thing I would want to think about would be here future sexual activity. I would be concerned about how to explain this round of vaccinations to her and how much I should really tell her. Of course, by the time she’s 11, I hope we would have already had a serious conversation about the birds and the bees. This might be a good time to add some new information.
Second is the issue of premarital sex. For some, the ideal situation would be that no young person have sex before they married. But that situation rarely exists. For better or worse, people always have had and probably always will have premarital sex.
Even if my theoretical daughter waits until marriage, what's to say her husband has? Why not give people the best protection possible? This isn't an issue of moral standards or proper behavior -- it's life or death.
What do you think? Is Perry overstepping his bounds or is he right on? Go ahead and comment and let us know. And if you're feeling really fired up, let us know here.


Donecia Pea said...

See, on one hand, I'm all about disease prevention and I think this is an especially gutsy preventative measure.

BUT the fact that's it going to be something mandated by government just really makes me uncomfortable. I've said this many times before, but I'll say it again: I have a HUGE problem with government, which is typically male-dominated, mandating or legislating anything concerning a female's body and sexuality. And I fear that this would set a dangerous precedent. Like today it'll be mandatory vaccinations for HPV, but tomorrow it could be something even more drastic like, I don't know, mandatory hysterectomies for adulterous women or something crazy like that. You know? It's just a fine line.

And, as you mentioned, we're talking about little girls, here. And as you've already addressed, it's obviously money-driven.

Now if they required parents to accompany their little girls to classes on HPV and so forth, maybe I could feel somwhat better about it, but I don't know about this one.

Miles said...

To mandate young women to take this drug, is overstepping a boundary, in my opinion. However, if I was a young woman, I'd probably want to take it. From what I understand the side effects are zilch. What should be happening is education for the parents and young ladies, then let THEM have the option to take it. But seriously, what are the odds the young women will have unprotected sex at some point in their lives...pretty good I bet. To me this is somewhat of a no-brainer, like using condoms to reduce the chance of pregnancy and the transmission of STD's. But requiring young women to take it? I dont know. As far as brigning up the issue of pre-marital sex (fist, this issue SHOULD be discussed), I'll put it like this: Its like telling your kid not to cross the street when the "do not walk" sign is up; but making them understand that if they do, to be careful and look both ways. Its not a "giving of permission" but at the same time its informing your kids how to keep themselves safe in any circumstance. Being well informed is your best bet for...well almost anything. I look at this drug as a safety net, how could it hurt? Just my opinion.

Melinda Williams said...

I think the fact that it's only being required for girls may be what is hanging some folks up. To me, this is not unlike vaccination for whooping cough or measles.
And just like any other vaccination, parents can opt out for religious or philosophical reasons.
I think there's a huge difference between asking parents to vaccinate their children (philosophical reasons is a pretty big loophole) and requiring surgery for bad behavior.
And I'm always a fan of comprehensive sex eduation. Unless they come up with a vaccine that prevents every STD and unwanted pregnancy and require it for everyone (totalitarian-state style), people are going to need facts to protect themselves and make wise choices.