Brownfemipower has a really interesting post about the governer of Texas’s decision to make the HPV vaccine compulsory for all girls sixth grade or above. This would also make the vaccine available for free for those who were uninsured or whose insurance doesn’t cover the vaccine:
I’m really conflicted about the news that the governor of texas just wrote into law the requirement that all girls get vaccinated for HPV virus (the same one that causes cancer).
Unlike a lot of Texans who oppose the shot, I don’t for a minute think that this shot is going to cause girls to run out and screw anything that moves. But as a parent who has had to make the decision to vaccinate my child (or refuse to, depending) for anything from ear infections to polio–I’m really wondering if this governor is writing this requirement into law because he’s some big lover of women (as a lot of the leftist blogosphere seems to be thinking), or if he’s just gotten himself some pretty pocket money from the drug companies who make this vaccination (according to the article, at least 6000$ in campaign donations).
In New Zealand there is an immunisation schedule, and immunisations on the schedule are free (see we still have some tatters of a socialised medicine system left). However, there is no requirement for parents to get their child immunised, either before starting school, or at any other time. I am a strong supporter of the HPV vaccine going on the immunisation schedule, because I believe all women have the right to protect themselves from cancer. But here, we don’t have to make any trade-offs.
As I understand it the only way a vaccine can be available to all, and publicly funded in America is if it is compulsory before a child can attend school (there are exemptions available to parents for conscience reasons). I can understand the public health argument which says that a kid must be immunised from certain infectious diseases before they start school (I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I understand it), disease can travel very quickly among unorganised children at school and this can cause an epidemic. But this logic does not apply to the HPV vaccine, HPV is a lot harder to contract than measles, so it isn’t going to spread round a school in the same way (it is clear that the vaccine is as important for later in life as it is for 6th grade, unlike other vaccines) and any genuine worry about the disease spreading would require both boys and girls to be immunised. There appears to be two reasons to support compulsory vaccination, either because your in the pay of the drug company, or you believe that it’s important that poor women get access to the vaccine (or both). Neither of these are based on genuine health concerns, which would be solved by making the vaccine compulsory.
This puts feminists in an impossible position. I’ll leave it for American feminists to discuss how they deal with this problem; I’ll just be glad that I don’t have to choose between access and choice.