The HPV Vaccine and California
By Kevin Yuan
Genital human papilloma virus, also called HPV, is by far the most common sexually transmitted infection, especially in the United States. There are more than a hundred strains of the virus, where less than half cause some form of genital infection, or something far worse, such as cervical cancer. In the span of 5 years, initial results suggest the vaccine has been found to prevent nearly 100 percent of precancerous cervical cells that would have been cause by two specific HPV strains (16&18). For some time, California has considered requiring the vaccine. Vaccine but noting the success of the vaccine based on voluntary terms, California should not mandate or require young girls to have the HPV vaccine before entering middle school. Instead, it should only be a recommendation for this vaccine.
Despite the initial minor side effects associated with the vaccine, it is still too new to discount possible adverse side-effects in a 10 or even 20 year span. Ultimately, guardians of those young girls should make the decision themselves, after researching the benefits and consequences associated with the vaccine. Guardians can make an educated decision as to whether or not to have the vaccination for their children.
Even though cervical cancer is a serious issue, the HPV vaccine is extremely expensive. When we look at the different types of cancers in the United States, cervical cancer accounts for about 0.006 percent and the annual incidence count in California is only 1,488 according to the National Cancer Institute from time period 2004-2008. In addition, as of now, there are already effective treatments and screenings for cervical cancer. When a mandate is in order, things have to go into motion, and insurance companies will have to cover it in the states. Health care money is then prioritized in this one specific area, even though resources are limited. According to LA Times on March 16, 2010, nearly 1 out of 4 people in California under the age of 65 lack health insurance and mandatory measures for this vaccine will shift already limited health care dollars towards only one asset involving HPV infections. Resources have to go into low socioeconomic areas where people are having trouble even having access to care, and getting better delivery of health where they could get screened and covering for not only cervical cancer but also a variety of health issues.
Although many advocates who wish to require the HPV vaccine by law may argue it will achieve widespread protection of the disease, we have to look at people’s liberty concerns. Understandably, universal protection is ideal but forcing little girls to have a government injection through a junction such as an executive order is wrong. The NPR reported on September 11, 2011 that the executive order mandating the HPV vaccine in Texas was overturned. Even Governor Rick Perry considers his decision a mistake and confers that “If I had to do it over again, I would have done it differently.” The fact that this law was proposed infringes on the people’s rights to make their own decisions. This is a liberty that cannot be overlooked despite the universal protection the vaccine might offer. However, the law was overturned, showing that the concern for the individual’s rights remains.
In conclusion, the HPV vaccine represents a significant breakthrough for women’s health. But, required immunization in California is a gesture that is unreasonable given the premature state of the vaccine, the decisions guardians have over their children and also the strain it will have on health care dollars. Instead, the vaccine should be available for those who want to be the vaccinated.