Bill for HPV vaccine is too costly and inefficient

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

I am writing in regard to Emily Dobler’s article “HPV vaccine touches off larger discussion on sex.” Miss Dobler’s article applauds California’s recent passage of a bill that would allow minors as young as 12 to receive the HPV vaccine, and accuses the conservatives who opposed the measure of having some sort of complex about sex. I disagree with Miss Dobler on the quality of the bill. Furthermore, her accusations toward those who oppose her are detrimental to the entire discussion of the issue.

Before I begin, I’d like to say that I am not against the HPV vaccine in general. Cervical cancer is a terrible disease, and this vaccine is incredibly effective at stopping it. However, there are several issues with the vaccine and the bill in question.

First and foremost is the cost. To fully receive the HPV vaccine, a patient must make three visits to the doctor’s office over six months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each of these visits will cost $130, for a total of $390. That cost is astronomical in comparison to another common vaccine, the MMR booster shot, which will run you $50 and protect you from three life-threatening diseases.

Admittedly, this is not a fair comparison. The HPV vaccine is brand new and as such is not available as a generic. However, that is precisely the point. It is too soon for legislation about the HPV vaccine. The cost is too great for the 40 million Americans without health insurance.

Next, let’s consider the bill in question. Currently, California minors can seek treatment for STDs without parental consent, but must still get parental consent for the HPV vaccine. This bill makes parental approval unnecessary to receive the vaccine. As Miss Dobler says,
“[u]pon first glance, this does not seem like such a big deal.” But let’s look at those numbers again. This bill allows 12-year-olds to make $400 purchases. I wouldn’t trust a 12-year-old to spend $20 wisely.

Who is paying for these shots? The California government? And here I thought they were on the verge of bankruptcy. Are parents paying for the vaccine? I hope they’re not among the 40 million Americans without health insurance or the 9 percent of Americans who are unemployed.

Finally, let’s look at what happens if a young girl does not get the HPV vaccine. According to the National Cancer Institute, there are approximately 11,000 incidences of cervical cancer in the U.S. annually. The majority of the women diagnosed have never had a pap smear or haven’t received one in the last five years.

What is a pap smear? It is a routine part of any gynecological exam specifically designed to check for cervical diseases. Even after getting the shot, doctors still recommend regular pap smears.

These are a few of the legitimate criticisms of the bill that Miss Dobler chooses to ignore. Instead, she focuses on Michelle Bachmann’s and Rick Perry’s opposition to the bill, pinning it on their own discomfort with sex. In fact, it’s all about Rick Perry. In 2007, Perry signed an executive order that would have made the HPV vaccine available through the state vaccination program, reducing the cost and requiring sixth grade girls to get the vaccine unless their parents opted them out. This order was soon overturned in the legislature, and Perry’s been back-pedalling since.

Why? Because Merck, makers of Gardasil — the only HPV vaccine in 2007 — have donated significant funds to Rick Perry’s re-election campaigns for governor, according to the Washington Post. In fact, his former chief of staff and current runner of a pro-Perry PAC, Mike Toomey, worked as a lobbyist for Merck when his order was passed. Perry is trying to look like he isn’t in the pocket of his contributors, despite all evidence to the contrary.

Instead of allowing children to spend hundreds of dollars unsupervised, we should encourage them to receive routine medical treatment. We can still discuss sex — but let’s do so in a more cost-efficient manner.