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To Vaccinate, or not to Vaccinate

Nothing causes an uproar in this country more than the sex lives of young girls: Who’s doing it? And where? How many? And why? How young? And what can be done about it? There’s always some crisis when it comes to women and sex. But there’s rarely a solution.

Nothing causes an uproar in this country more than the sex lives of young girls: Who’s doing it? And where? How many? And why? How young? And what can be done about it? There’s always some crisis when it comes to women and sex. But there’s rarely a solution.

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Enter Gardasil, the vaccine manufactured by Merck, which prevents four of the strains of HPV (human papillomavirus), associated with 70 percent of cervical cancer cases. Unfortunately for us women, HPV is another one of those infections that invariably afflict women more often than men. With 80 percent of women acquiring HPV by the time they reach 50, this vaccine seems like a no-brainer. But that’s far from the case.

The battle over Gardasil has become big business in this country, with Merck lobbying for mandatory vaccinations for all girls entering the sixth grade prior to even receiving approval by the FDA. The vaccine isn’t cheap either. The 3-shot regimen costs $360 and if all 50 states pass a law requiring mandatory vaccinations – that’s a whole lot of money for Merck (about $5 billion a year to be exact). Especially when Merck has a monopoly on the vaccine, at least while GlaxoSmithKline awaits approval.

But whether Merck created this vaccine out of the goodness of their hearts or because they knew they could corner the market seems to be beside the point. Morals aside: Girls are dying. We can prevent it. Is there really a debate?

Rick Perry, the governor of Texas, doesn’t think so. He has already approved mandatory vaccinations by executive order. Whether or not it’s good lobbying on Merck’s part that influenced Perry’s decision, or good sense on his own, a good decision was made.

In the meantime, critics of the vaccine say that it should be a parent’s decision whether or not to vaccinate their daughters and not the state’s. These same parents say vaccinating their daughters will encourage promiscuity. On the other side are proponents of the vaccine who ask what kind of parent wouldn’t want their daughters to be given a potentially lifesaving vaccine? Some have even pointed out that if the vaccine is not mandatory there will be a gap between the haves and the have-nots, with the girls whose parents are educated about the vaccine getting their daughters vaccinated, while those who are not, won’t. Do we really need any more inequities in this country?

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