Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Vaccinations For School

NewsAlert has a great story about a potential new Michigan law. There's no way to excerpt it--I'm going to give you the entire NewsAlert piece.

The AP reports:
Michigan girls entering the sixth grade next year would have to be vaccinated against cervical cancer under legislation backed Tuesday by a bipartisan group of female lawmakers.

The legislation is the first of its kind in the United States, said Republican state Sen. Beverly Hammerstrom, lead sponsor.

The vaccine was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June for use in girls and women and has been hailed as a breakthrough in cancer prevention. It prevents infections from some strains of the sexually transmitted human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

A government advisory panel said that ideally the vaccine should be given before girls become sexually active.

The American Cancer Society estimates 9,700 women nationwide will be diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2006, and 3,700 will die.

"We believe we can save the lives of these girls," Hammerstrom said.

Some conservatives around the country have expressed concern that schools would make the vaccine a requirement for enrollment. They have argued that requiring the vaccine would infringe on parents' rights and send a message that underage sex is OK.

Just a little taste of what's coming with "universal health care".

If the government is going to require vaccinations, it should be to protect the public from communicable diseases. It's entirely reasonable to want to ensure that students aren't going to get each other sick.

But cervical cancer isn't communicable. What business does the government have forcing that vaccination on children? Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that getting a vaccine to possibly avoid cancer would be a bad thing--far from it. It's just that the government shouldn't be in the business of mandating that vaccine when the health of the general public isn't at risk. There could be an outbreak of smallpox, there isn't going to be an outbreak of cervical cancer.

And the schools should not be thrust into this.

Laws relating to education and children are insane. Here in California, I'm not allowed to give a student an aspirin (or acetominophen or ibuprofin) for a headache, but we're required by law to allow a student to leave school grounds, without parental permission or knowledge, to get an abortion. We can't ask at registration time if you're in this country illegally, but in Michigan we'll ask if you've been vaccinated against something that's not a threat to the general population. Might we be keeping children out of school if they don't have their vaccination?

This isn't the school's business. And it isn't the legislature's business, either. I keep telling you lefties who want universal health care--how much control over your health do you want a government bureaucracy to have? Do you trust President Bush and the Republican Congress enough to do what's right for you? (hehehe) Do you really want the same kind of people that currently work in the DMV or the Transportation Security Administration responsible for your health care ? If so, you're dumb enough that you probably need the government to take care of you, and you'd deserve it.

But even you lefties--can you support this Michigan plan?


Onyx said...

What can I say? I am speechless. Strange what we are allowed and NOT allowed to do by law! We can't even ask if the kids live in our district!

Anonymous said...

No, I can't. That's stupid

Anonymous said...

Hummm, since it is a sexually transmitted virus I don't see how you can say it is not communicable. It is. And since half the population is female, that to me qualifies as the general public, or close enough.
3,700 very unpleasant deaths per year is tragic.
You can debate the subject of how much the government should be involved. I'd vote for the law myself, but admit it is a close call. How about we just make it generally available and free and see how that works?

Darren said...

Do I *really* have to explain how the communicability of cervical cancer is significantly different from the communicability of smallpox?

Do I really need to explain how cervical cancer doesn't affect the school environment the way smallpox and whooping cough would?

Anonymous said...

Maybe we should include all virginal teachers also?

Anonymous said...

Yes, Darren, you do have to explain to me how a life threatening virus given from one person to another is not communicable.

But you are right that it doesn't affect the school environment the way smallpox would. It hits them later in life. So it isn't on your watch. Or you can pretend it wasn't.
So if you could put down your sack of condesention for a moment, how about making it free and available?

MikeAT said...

Well, sixth grade, that's about 12 years old...I other words these state bureaucrats are sure kids will become sexually active in the early teens.

I agree this is not for a state official to make a requirement. We require vaccinations for openly communicable diseases such as measles and polio because that is an open hazard.

I make this suggestion. Let the parents discuss this with the doctor…they can make the decision for what is best for their daughter. Oh, wait…are we discussing having parents responsible for their children…what a radical concept.

Parents should make this decision for their children, not some worthless paper pusher. BTY, are their daughters being required to take this vaccine?

Darren said...

Atlas, who said this vaccine was free?

You're making this an issue of socialized medicine. This isn't an issue about making it "free and available", this is an issue of whether or not it makes sense for government to require this vaccine in order for a girl to attend school.

As MikeAT pointed out, this cancer isn't "openly communicable" as other vaccinated illnesses are.

Is government to make *all* medical decisions now? Hell, we don't even have a nurse at our school....

Anonymous said...

if i was a teenage chick say 15, i would rather die than have my parents find out i had sex, thank you peer pressure, thank you parental pressure, god bless america

Darren said...

Anonymous, I don't see how that relates to being forced to be immunized for cervical cancer before being allowed in school, but ok.

Ivory said...

How do you feel about the Hepatitis B vaccine? In most people it's spread by exchange of body fluids through (ahem) intimate contact. Only healthcare workers (and other people who work with blood and body fluids) run a significant risk of acquiring Hep B through non-sexual exposure. But this is usually a required vaccine for all kids before they start public school. Hmmmm.

Vaccines are required for school kids in an attempt to prevent transmission of infectious diseases in our community. This transmission may or may not happen in school. Take polio - it's spread through fecal contamination of water. Are you seriously telling me that your school's water system is fecally contaminated? Not bloody likely.

I would be a little more patient with the objections to the HPV vaccine if the same issues had been raised about Hep B. But this virus is perceived (incorrectly) as something that causes disease only in women who engage in risky sexual behavior. In fact, 80% of all women are exposed to HPV by the time they turn 50 - I doubt seriously this is because they were all stepping out for a good time.

HPV causes disease in men, women and can be passed vertically from mother to child during delivery. If you're worried that kids will be more likely to engage in riskly behavior after being vaccinated, point out to them that 30% of cervical cancers and a smaller percent of penile cancers are caused by HPV serovars not covered by the vaccine. This is not a license to hop in the back of the nearest SUV and rock n' roll.

Whatever you might think about the behavior that leads to infection with this virus, it is a public health threat. We need to treat it as such.

EllenK said...

Darren-I am going to have to disagree with you on this one. You know as well as I do that there are parents who will only get their children immunized because they cannot go to school until it's done. That is just a simple fact of public health. While on the surface this is a sex ed issue, it's also a long time health issue. We don't anticipate stepping on a rusty nail, yet we get tetnus shots every ten years. We don't plan on inhaling polio or pertussus germs, but it happens, so we prevent the disease through early immunization. If you could see this as more of a public health issue and had arguements against that it would be one thing, but we are talking about 12 year old girls who, like it or not, are often sexually active in spite of their parents wishes by age 16. That gives a very short window to avoid the serious problems of cervical cancer. I have known very young women, 19, 20 years old, who have had to have treatment for cervical cancer. Moral issues aside, there's not one of them who would have turned down the chance to avoid a painful and dangerous disease through a series of shots early on. And also, I have seen some of the more religious kids outside of school, and seriously, if their parents think they are any less "busy" than their public school cohorts, they are living in a dream world. I've taught in both private and public schools, and really, there's not that much of a difference in behavior.

Deborah said...

We have forgotten that actions have consequences. Sleeping around CAN lead to some pretty ugly STDs, including the virus that can cause cervical cancer.

The spread of STDs in our Nation gives us yet another reason to lift up sexuality to the wonderful place in our life it was intended to be -- something cherished, honored. Something meant for only 2 people to share for a lifetime. This is not a new idea :)

Of course, avoiding consequences isn't a new idea either...it's just the possibilites of avoidance have increased (the great variety of birth control and abortion techniques and vaccinations to protect from STDs and pills to withold outbreaks of herpes, etc.)

I was pondering a similar situation the other day. Hubby and I are considering having another child. The drops they put into baby's eyes at birth are in case Mom is infected with an STD that can cause blindness in baby. All well and good that such eyedrops exist -- but the hospitals force these eyedrops on every little baby. My husband and I have been married a dozen years. We were virgins when we married, and have been with no one else since then. Any baby of mine does not need these eyedrops, and I should have the right to refuse. We are looking into the possiblity of refusing these drops...

As a youth leader for over 10 years in Christian groups, I can say that YES, sex is certainly at the forefront of teenagers' minds. That said, there are MANY, MANY teenagers who do not experiment with sex. We have not EVOLVED into a human race which now has no self-control, we simply must re-discover this self control, along with a thankfulness and wonderment at the great gift of sex (and marriage), and teach these to our children.

Darren said...

I'm not opposed to this on moral grounds. I'm opposed to it on libertarian grounds. No one's going to get cervical cancer from being around someone else with cervical cancer, so it's not what I'd consider a "public health threat" worthy of getting the schools involved.

Anthrax? Smallpox? Plague? Hell, I've been immunized for plague, back when I was in the army. Freakin' bubonic plague! Transmitted by fleas on rats and squirrels--more likely to catch plague than you are cervical cancer from someone.

This is a *political* issue, not a medical one. It doesn't belong in the schools.

Ivory said...


This is a vaccine against Human Papilloma Virus, a virus that causes cervical, penile and throat cancer. I'm assuming that like most people, you have two of the above three parts. Therefore, widespread vaccination would protect you from being exposed to oncogenic or cancer causing forms of HPV. Calling it the cervical cancer vaccine is misleading because it gives the false impression that this vaccine protects against cancer in a particular female only tissue. It is a vaccine against a virus - not against a cancer.

Public health is a medical issue, not a political one. We have long recognized in this country that certain diseases are a risk to the whole public and are worthy of control on a massive scale. People infected with certain diseases give up certain rights - the right to privacy, the right to refuse treatment. For example TB patients who refuse to comply with their therapy can be put in prison until their treatment is complete.

If you are going to object to this vaccine on the basis that it can't be spread by public contact in school then you should also object to vaccination from Hepatitis B, polio, and tetanus. None of those are spread directly from person to person through aerosols and tetanus in particular is not transmitted from person to person at all.

It's important for kids to get these vaccines because their immunity is more robust if they are vaccinated on the timetable recommended by the CDC. Waiting until they are older and the more negative sequalae of these diseases become more of a problem is foolish and prevents full efficacy of the vaccine. Allowing parents to ignore the need to have their kids vaccinated is cruel to those kids - it will make them more vulnerable to infection for the rest of their lives because vaccines just don't work as well in older people. Using entry into school as a checkpoint for the vaccination process is a convenient way to make sure that kids get this protection from disease at an age when it will do the most good - for them and for the community at large.

I've always heard Libertarians say that they felt they should be able to do whatever they want as long as it doesn't hurt other people. Refusing to be vaccinated and failing to vaccinate your kids harms the public health by creating a disease reservoir. Requiring parents to comply with this requirement protects our public health - it is a community concern, not a private decision.

Darren said...

I disagree with your argument, but applaud you for the dispassionate--indeed, logical--way you phrased it.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, there needs to be some logical nexus between transmission and school to justify this. We are not talking whooping cough or measles or some other disease that is readily transmitted in the course of ordinary contact that happens during the school day. Rather, we are talking a virus that is transmited sexually -- something that is not (ideally) going on at school.

Generally speaking, little Suzy will not have any opportunity to contract HPV in a school setting -- and if she does, there is a much larger issue to be addressed.

Oh, and Ivory -- under your allegedly Libertarina" argument, government should be requiring birth control and abortions of poor women because of the deleterious effect of their reporduction on society as a whole. Whatever happened to "My Body; My Choice"?

Darren said...

"...logical nexus between transmission and school..."

If only I could have said it so clearly. That was the point I was trying to make.

Ivory said...

If the problem is a logical connection between transmission and school than you should have objected to the polio vaccine and the hepatitis B vaccine. Polio is spread through water contamination, not through normal casual contact. Hep B requires intimate exposure to body fluids for spread - not the sort of thing that happens commonly at school.

This requirement was put in place not because there is some expectation that the disease will be transmitted at school. Rather, it's an attempt to make sure that by a certain age (hopefuly before people are sexually active) everyone gets vaccinated.

All I'm asking is that people be consistant. Object to all vaccines or none. But don't selectively object just to those that are spread by behavior you disapprove of and then pretend it's a political issue. That's a moral objection.

Sadly, it is this type of thinking that derailed the global erradication of polio in the last 5 years. Religious leaders in Nigeria and Indonesia convinced their followers to refuse vaccination. Polio is now reimmerging in that region and millions (if not billions) of dollars will be spent trying to get things back under control. Thousands of kids will be paralyzed and die from a totally preventable disease. Very sad.

Darren said...

Ivory, you were doing fine until you assumed an incorrect motivation on my part.

If I were aware of all the other vaccines *required* by schools, I'd object to them as well. The subject of this post, though, is a *new* one, and I object to it not on moral grounds but political.

You're a good writer, based on this comment, but a lousy mind-reader. Please do not presume that I'm thinking something other than what I write--I'm very direct, I don't pull punches, and I call 'em as I sees 'em.

Ivory said...

Well - I stand corrected Darren - your heart is pure on this one. But if you remember from a few comments above there are those who object to this vaccine because it stops people from being appropriately punished for bad behavior. And I'm afraid that they will prevent the vaccine from being distributed in a way that would provide greatest protection for our public health.

Darren said...

Comments are the opinions of the writers, not necessarily those of the Keeper of the Blog. :-)

rightwingprof said...

I can see both sides on this one, though nothing is "free" (that includes government services). And I must say I have a hard time seeing this in the same light as "sex ed" and handing out condoms at schools.

Though the question remains, despite the polio argument, why the school? What is it, specifically, about the school that makes it a vector for vaccination? I think Darren made his point here, that there is nothing about the spread of papillovirus that makes the school an appropriate place for vaccination.

EllenK said...

I think that the reason the school becomes the central key is because many parents, especially of those populations where birth control, sexual restraint and various STD's run rampant are the same populations that often use the emergency room as their family physicians. Simply put, many of these families will not take the option of protecting their daughters unless someone makes them do so. And like it or not, even in the most Christian of schools in which I taught, the kids are very sexually active. And very sexually ignorant. In reality, you can teach your own children sexual values, but you can't count on your neighbor or your sister or your aunt to do the same. Until all people are equally responsible, which the rates for AIDS and other diseases proves doesn't happen, we have to twist the arms of folks to do the right thing. If the tables were turned and it was a sequential vaccine against AIDS would you be similarly opposed? Sorry, but I think on this one we have to use any means necessary to make sure that this medical burden on our community doesn't exist through parental negligence.