Friday, June 30, 2006
Conservatives react to HPV vaccine recommendation
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended that a new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine be given to all girls and women from age 11 to age 26 (New York Times). The US Department of Health and Human Services is likely to accept the recommendation. One outcome will be the obligation to launch a program to make these immunizations available to poor girls ages 11–18 at no cost to them.
"You can't catch the virus, you have to go out and get it with sexual behavior," said Linda Klepacki of Focus on the Family, a conservative Christian group based in Colorado Springs. "We can prevent it by having the best public health method, and that's not having sex before marriage."
Ms. Klepacki's group opposes mandating Gardasil vaccinations.
This response is representative of the position that such right-wing groups usually have about any health or safety issue connected with what they see as a moral issue. Compare their opposition to making condoms available to teenagers and needle exchanges for intravenous drug users. Their observation that abstinence from sex or illegal drug use is the only sure way to avoid STDs, HIV, and so on. Nevertheless, they obstinately refuse to validate any other approach. They don't believe in Plan B (no pun with the emergency birth control pill by that name intended): it's their way or the highway. In their view, the government should only help the "moral", and the rest of us can fend for ourselves. It's the philosophy of government for the few.
I'm pleased to see that this shortsightedness isn't universal among these groups. The Washington Post shares this note about another conservative group:
"The Family Research Council continues to endorse both the distribution and the widespread availability of the vaccine," said Moira Gaul, the coordinator of the organization's Abstinence Project.
She said the council would oppose making the vaccine compulsory. That is because, unlike measles and many childhood infections, HPV is not transmitted casually or through indirect contact in public places such as schools.