Watching politicians and corporations shoot themselves in the foot, you get to taking seriously theories about drives to self destruction. The trouble is that when these folks do it, they tend to take the rest of us with them.
Such is the case now in the 20 state legislatures considering bills to mandate that pre-teen school girls be vaccinated with Gardasil, a new vaccine against certain strains of human papillomavirus (HPV) that can cause cervical cancer. These initiatives are being shepherded by lobbying campaigns by Merck, the pharmaceutical giant that developed the vaccine.
A vaccine that prevents cervical cancer sounds great. But this is a free country. Remember? Unless there is a compelling reason to use government to mandate, Soviet-style, use of a particular product, then medicines, like all products, should be sold on the free market. Consumers can buy them if they want them.
Not only is there no reason to mandate the use of Gardasil, but the reasoning being used to justify its mandated use is perverse. Among the destructive consequences will be that girls who are most at risk, those who are poor, usually minorities, will be hurt more than helped.
Government mandated vaccines for communicable diseases, like measles, where an infected child can put others at risk, are justifiable. But the HPV virus which may lead to cervical cancer is spread through sexual contact. It is, as Dr. Jane Orient, executive director of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, aptly put it, a "lifestyle disease."
Where are we going as a country when we start mandating vaccines against diseases resulting from behavior we choose?
And where are we when we consider sexual behavior to be private, but its consequences public?
Of course, by bringing in the strong arm of government, and forcing mandatory vaccination, a whole population of girls gets dragged into the picture whose families would never choose to use the vaccine nor could they afford it. That is, those from poor and minority homes.
Merck has to love this picture. They don't just get guaranteed purchases from those whose insurance companies will foot the bill. But they'll also get state and federal governments to pay for the low income kids who, if left alone, would never be their customers.
The main risks that these girls from low-income families face stem from their promiscuity.
Blacks account for 50 percent of new AIDS cases, are 18 times more likely to contract a sexually transmitted disease than whites, and are regularly at risk of death through homicides, suicides and accidents that plague these communities.
Blacks are twice as likely to die before the age of 20 as whites.