Vriezen: Perry’s HPV stance isn’t unreasonable

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican presidential candidate,
gives her final straw poll speech Aug. 13 at Hilton Coliseum.
Bachmann was the winner of the 2011 Ames Straw Poll, earning 28.5
percent (4,823) of the total vote.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, a Republican presidential candidate, gives her final straw poll speech Aug. 13 at Hilton Coliseum. Bachmann was the winner of the 2011 Ames Straw Poll, earning 28.5 percent (4,823) of the total vote.

Claire Vriezen

While there are 101 things I disagree with Rick Perry about, I have found the tiniest glimmer of hope in him. Not enough to persuade me to vote for him of course, but nonetheless, the revelation that we shared similar views on a topic was shocking to say the least.

In the tea party Republican debate on Monday, Rick Perry was called out for his support of a program that would have required Texan sixth-grade girls to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

For some reason, Michele Bachmann thought this was a bad idea. She told Perry that “to have innocent little 12-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just wrong.”

Now, if we assume that Bachmann is taking issue with the fact that Perry had supported HPV vaccines as required by the government, perhaps she should take a look at all the other required vaccines children must get. Every single state in America has at least three vaccines that are required of all children, and about half a dozen more vaccines either required or usually highly recommended as well.

To oppose a required HPV vaccine on the basis that it’s a “forced government injection” requires Bachmann to equally oppose other required vaccines. There are state laws regarding vaccinating children because it not only protects those vaccinated from the disease, but because it protects the rest of the population by preventing the spread of disease from a school or child care setting.

While the HPV vaccine doesn’t protect against the typical childhood diseases, it does protect against the most common sexually transmitted infection — something most people will one day have to worry about. To allow this vaccine to effectively protect against the human papillomavirus, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that it is given to adolescents around 11 to 12 years old (and since it takes three doses in six months, it’s good to get it done sooner rather than later).

While HPV often fades on it’s own, it is almost solely responsible for all cervical cancer. So, here we have a vaccine that is effective at preventing the leading cause of cervical cancer, and we have the CDC recommending that it is given to young girls so that they will be protected when they begin to participate in sexual activity. Since STIs are certainly an issue of public health, it seems reasonable that a cancer-preventing STI vaccine would be something required of youth.

But perhaps Bachmann’s objection lies in that it was, in particular, a requirement that Perry supported. She claimed to be “offended for all the little girls and parents who didn’t have a choice.”

Do these children have a choice when it comes to vaccines such as this? If Perry’s attempted executive order was reasonable in any way, it should have had provisions for exemptions to the HPV vaccine — just like other normal childhood vaccines.

Current state requirements for vaccines allow for medical exemptions, for religious and philosophical reasons, or if documentation can be provided that the child already had that disease, and is subsequently immune. Nearly every state allows for religious exemptions, and 19 states allow for philosophical exemptions (allowing for parents that question the vaccination’s safety, effectiveness or necessity to sidestep the requirements).

While I’m not sure why anyone would object to their child receiving a vaccine, I see no particular reason to oppose a program that would require a cancer and STI-preventing vaccine. As long as the program allows for the appropriate exemptions if parents so choose, a HPV vaccine requirement could greatly reduce the incidence of the STI in sexually active females (and males) and give them the reassurance that they are protected from cervical cancer.

So, for once, I agree with Rick Perry. Vaccines that are required by states should not only reflect the importance of protecting the health of children from contagious diseases such as measles, mumps or pertussis, but also the need to protect the sexual health and safety of individuals from other common infections in the population. If we have the ability to prevent sickness, why would we not?