Per Kit’s Request

We live in Texas, the land of big things and one of the most Republican bastions of the US. If I lean in any direction politically, it’s to the right, and thus I often find myself agreeing with the views of Texans, albeit with some degree of discomfort, given their twang and unshaking belief in their correctness. Back when we voted for the governor in November, though, I just could not bring myself to push the button for Rick Perry. He ran as a Republican, but I think he gives them all a bad name. He’s soft on border patrol. He’s not lowering taxes, in spite of a giant surplus of money. He’s in too tight with the teacher’s union, if you ask me. And then there was Gardasil.

Gardasil is the vaccine for 4 strands of HPV. HPV is the Human Papillomavirus. If you’ve ever had a wart, anywhere on your body, then you’ve been infected with HPV. Although, many times people who have the virus will have no symptoms and will simply carry it until their body recognizes the virus as a foreign threat and kills it off.

Just like every virus, including the common cold, there is no cure for HPV. This is due, in large part, to the fact that viruses mutate easily and are quick to adapt to treatments. You can catch this virus by coming in direct contact with it through skin to skin contact (from yourself or someone else), or even by touching objects that have the virus on them.

Symptoms of viruses, however, can be managed and in most cases of HPV, warts are simply frozen or lasered off of the skin. Warts in the private parts, given their delicate environment, are less likely to be treated by such ‘radical’ means and are most commonly treated with Aldara, a topical cream made by 3M that was approved by the FDA in 1997. Aldara remains the only topical treatment for HPV and, without insurance, the average month’s supply of the cream will cost the consumer around $200.

Until recently, 3M cornered the market for those with HPV infections of their delicates. They had the only treatment. But while 3M had been getting fat off of management of the virus, Merck was assisting researchers in how to vaccinate against it. The FDA approved the vaccine in June of 2006. It covers the four major strains of the virus, two of which cause as estimated 90% of all outbreaks. Essentially, the vaccine has virus-like particles that lack the viral component. Once injected, they trigger the body to create antibodies against their particles, thus building an immunity to the virus. The vaccine is administered in separate shots over the course of three visits.

By no means does this vaccine announce the end of HPV. There are still many more strains that the vaccine does not cover, but it does prevent against the most commonly destructive strains. What kind of destruction are we talking? Cancer. The Big Double C, really. Cervical Cancer. In almost all cases, women who develop cervical cancer have HPV.

It’s estimated that 270,000 women die each year from cervical cancer. And while; according to the American Cancer Society, only 3700 of those women are inside the United States, it is still a gigantic number of women in our country whose lives could have been saved by the vaccine.

Now comes the touchy part. What about you? What about your daughter? What about your friends? I’ve been talking with friends about the vaccine and asking them if they are going to get it. So far, the reactions are pretty much the same. They smile and say ‘no’ because no one believes that they are at risk. One in four American women has HPV. One in four. Not to mention all of the men who are carrying it. Even if you are not, how should I say this, ‘putting yourself out there’ you might end up with someone who has been, and so might your daughter.

Oh, the daughters. This is where Rick Perry comes in again. He gave an executive order last month declaring that starting in 2008 all sixth grade girls have to get the vaccine as part of the required shots to attend school. And the Texans went crazy. Rightfully so.

Even though I am totally 100% behind the vaccine and will get it myself, I don’t think the government should be telling people what do when it comes to their own healthcare decisions. I don’t think any vaccines should be mandatory. I also think people who own restaurants should be allowed to decide if people can smoke in the building that they own, in spite of the fact that I love smoke-free restaurants. LOVE.THEM. But if a restaurant is smoky, I should just vote with my feet and not go there. I don’t think the government should be allowed to tell private citizens how to run their private businesses and even more so their private bodies.

Of course, in Texas, you can opt out of the vaccinations – all of the vaccinations – for your children. You can send them to school here completely unvaccinated if you so choose, even with the Executive Order. But that’s not good enough for, and please forgive me, the crazy Christians and Religious Right, who are shouting around about abstinence. We know already. We get it that people shouldn’t have sex before they’re married so that disease won’t spread. We know condoms aren’t fool proof (certainly not with HPV, because they don’t cover all the parts that need covering), and we know that you think vaccinating our girls is giving them signed papers to be promiscuous.

But reality is that 3700 families would give anything to get one more day with a woman that they loved. A woman who may have made a bad choice at a party in college. A woman who may have been raped by someone with the disease. A woman who may have done everything right on her own; who has been a church-going, God-fearing person her entire life and then married a man who just recently became a Christian, but whose life before that was far from ‘clean’.

It’s not just about our daughters making right decisions now. It’s also about their future. And even though I totally disagree with Rick Perry’s order to mess about in our healthcare choices, I’d like to believe that he sees the issue the same way. That he isn’t just signing orders because of the campaign checks he’s received from people at Merck.

I’ll never know his intentions, but I’m not all that concerned with them either. I’m concerned about you, about your daughter and about women globally whose lives can be extended by a simple vaccine.

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    • the Burgess family
    • March 12th, 2007

    hi. I didn’t mean you had to put my name on top of your post 🙂

    At first I too thought “we don’t need that vaccine because we’ll teach our kids to not sleep around” but then I realized that sometimes a husband may have slept around and not told you, so maybe girls should be protected? (this happened to someone I know, got infected through no fault of their own. no cancer though).

    but you’re right too that the gov’t does seem to have a law about almost everything and it is starting to get on my nerves. Many of them seem good (like child car seats for example, and vaccines too) but still make me think, why do we need a law about every possible thing? I know people are dumb, but…is having more laws gonna help this? So far it doesn’t mess with my life too much, but what if it goes too far and everything we do has a law for it?

    -KIT

    • the Burgess family
    • March 12th, 2007

    PS- I think vaccines (and car seats) are mandatory because a lot of “low-income” people wouldn’t bother or know how to take proper care of their children sometimes. so this forces them to do it. But I also thought newer vaccines were optional for a while first (like the chicken pox one). Having them forced on you just means that the smarter people need to do their work and research and stand up for what they want because the laws are for the less educated who won’t do this and then all our kids are at risk because so many people didn’t bother to think about if they should vaccinate or not. do you know what I mean? I am “low income” myself so I know how these things can go sometimes.

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