Bob Unruh joined WND in 2006 after nearly three decades with the Associated Press, as well as several Upper Midwest newspapers, where he covered everything from legislative battles and sports to tornadoes and homicidal survivalists. He is also a photographer whose scenic work has been used commercially.More ↓Less ↑
Texas has become the first state in the nation to require schoolgirls to be vaccinated with Merck & Co.’s human papillomavirus vaccine in order to be allowed in school, and one Christian organization leader says that’s not a lot different from requiring those girls to carry a condom.
After all, according to Debi Vinnedge, executive director for Children of God for Life, earlier studies indicated, just as do current studies for Merck’s Gardasil vaccine, that that move would address problems from sexually transmitted diseases.
“The purpose of vaccinations in children at schools was to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. There’s nothing wrong with doing that kind of thing,” Vinnedge told WND. “But this is not a disease that is spread any other way other than direct sexual intercourse.”
She said the state doesn’t mandate other treatments that are available for sexually transmitted diseases, and adding Gardasil to the list of state-required vaccinations “brings out a whole slew of problems.”
She said it requires parents to address with their children sexual issues they may not want to detail at that particular age, and if they go through the special requirements of a religious exemption process, it pinpoints the family – and children – in the school atmosphere as “those” people.
It also, in Texas, creates special problems because the many private schools there, if they do not accept tax funding and do not allow exemptions for other reasons, may not be required to allow any exemption, forcing parents to require their daughters to get the vaccine, or face expulsion from those schools.
“It’s no one’s business what a family decides about health issues. Parents don’t have to let anyone know,” she said. “It violates their right to privacy.”
The new requirement came on an executive order by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who, Vinnedge said, bypassed the will of the people.
She also noted there may have been economic and personal influences on the governor, since his former chief of staff, Mike Loomey, now is a lobbyist for Merck, and Merck made thousands of dollars in contributions to Perry’s re-election campaign.
“We know there were some ties there.”
Reports also noted that the mother-in-law of Perry’s current chief of staff, Texas Republican State Rep. Dianne White Delisi, is a state director for Women in Government, one of the groups that has received grants to work on the issue of HPV.
And a Merck employee sits on a board for Women in Government, whose members have been responsible for pushing the Merck agenda on the vaccine in various states, reports said.
Vinnedge’s organization is urging Perry to reverse his executive order.
“His actions clearly contradict the advice of every major medical, ethical and pro-family organization in the country,” she said, citing concerns from the Catholic Medical Association, the American College of Pediatricians, Focus on the Family, the National Catholic Bioethics Center and the Pro Family Law Center.
Just days ago, the ACP noted, “HPV is spread only by intercourse. Keeping children out of school because they have not been vaccinated with the HPV vaccine is a serious, precedent-setting action. It replaces parental medical decision-making with government regulation.”
One of the medical and ethics experts at Focus, likewise, said earlier that such a requirement makes “state officials, not parents … the primary sexual-health decision makers for America’s children.”
In Texas, Attorney General Greg Abbott concluded in 2005 that private schools not getting state funds could refuse vaccine exemptions, and that would include Gardasil. “Since Abbott made that decision, dozens of Texas children with legitimate medical and religious exemptions have been expelled from Catholic schools,” said Vinnedge.
“But their latest Gardasil mandate presents a new twist to a very bad situation. Federal law prohibits favoring one’s religious beliefs over another’s. Therefore, it could be legitimately argued that allowing the HPV vaccine exemptions while denying those for abortion-derived vaccines would be discrimination.”
Wendy Wright, president of Concerned Women for America, said the flu virus kills 60,000 annually in the U.S., but the flu vaccine is not mandated. The HPV vaccine would address some of the estimated 4,000 fatalities from HPV and the related cervical cancer each year.
“The governor’s order forces little girls to be shot with a sex virus vaccine. He has circumvented debate on this controversial matter to the financial benefit of Merck, one of his campaign contributors. An opt-out provision puts parents in the position of having to resist forceful government officials, and puts the burden on parents when it should be on the vaccine maker.
“While we support the vaccine itself, a government mandate that little girls must be shot with it well before they’re sexually active, with the likely consequence they would have to get another expensive booster before they’re sexually active, is an outrageous assault on girls and their parents.”
In a column by Donna Gardner, she noted Perry said getting an HPV vaccination is no different that getting a polio vaccination, “but obviously polio does not involve sexual behaviors.”
“Now parents are being told they must get their young daughters vaccinated against HPV as if to say to the child, ‘We do not expect nor believe that you will stay abstinent until marriage,’” she continued.
She cited reports that there have been 82 cases of serious adverse reactions in less than a year since the drug was approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
“These incidents should have been discussed thoroughly in open forum in the Legislature before any mandate was even considered,” she wrote.
And she said the vaccine only covers four of 30 types of HPV, which account of two-thirds of cervical cancers. “That leaves 30 percent of cervical cancers … which are not covered by the HPV vaccine,” she continued.
Other STDs, too, which are not affected by the vaccine, include Chlamydia, herpes, hepatitis, trichomoniasis, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, AIDS and others.
Merck officials declined to discuss the issue with WND, but issued a written statement that said the company is working nationwide to have the vaccinations institutionalized.
“It is apparent that there is a clear urgency on the part of health care providers, consumers, managed care organizations and regulatory agencies to help prevent cervical cancer and other HPV-related disease,” said the unattributed statement.
“Merck’s goal is to support efforts to implement policies that ensure that Gardasil is used to achieve what it was designed to do: help reduce the burden of cervical cancer – the second leading cancer among women around the world – and other HPV-related diseases for as many people as possible, and as quickly as possible.
“Merck works with elected and appointed officials in all 50 states on many issues affecting health policy, pharmaceutical research and innovation. We do work at the state level to provide public health experts, legislators and other policy makers with disease and vaccine information to support the implementation of state-level policies for all of our vaccines, including Gardasil.”
An earlier report in the Baltimore Sun said upwards of a dozen states already have submitted to the Merck advertising campaign and are considering making the vaccinations a requirement.
That report said the obvious reason is that the vaccine is expected to reach $1 billion in sales next year – but with a bunch of states requiring the vaccinations, that could instead be $4 billion.
“A lot of us are worried it’s a little early to be pushing a mandated HPV vaccine,” Dr. Martin Myers, of the National Network for Immunization Information, told the Sun. “It’s not that I’m not wildly enthusiastic about this vaccine. I am. But many of us are concerned a mandate may be premature, and it’s important for people to realize that this isn’t as clear-cut as some previous vaccines.”
Other states reportedly in the pipeline to make a commitment to Merck, the only provider for the vaccine, include California, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, New Jersey, Texas, and Virginia, state officials said.
The report said in addition to vaccination mandates, Merck also is supporting requirements that insurers and Medicaid cover the cost – estimated at up to $400 per schoolgirl – of the treatment.
Several medical news websites, including www.NewsMedical.net, reported that Merck not only is doing its own advertising campaign, but granting funds to other groups to lobby on behalf of its product too.
But it said this vaccine “does not meet the narrowly tailored criteria of the Sherbert Supreme Court case of 1963 on mandatory vaccination since sexual abstinence before marriage and faithfulness within marriage are practical avoidance alternatives.”
Perry has been described as a conservative Christian who opposes abortion rights and stem-cell research with embryonic stem cells, but in his announcement described the HPV vaccine as no different than other vaccines.
“If there are diseases in our society that are going to cost us large amounts of money, it just makes good economic sense, not to mention the health and well being of these individuals to have those vaccines available,” he said.
“We’re moving toward mandating every new vaccine on the market. But our children have too many shots now. Every new one further burdens their immune systems. We simply don’t know the effect of that.
“Not long ago, an anti-diarrhea vaccine was approved and touted and used, until it killed and injured so many babies that it was withdrawn. Oops!
“Every ”oops” is someone’s life – but the company has lots of expensive lawyers plus government protection for mandated vaccines. How nice for them.
“Mixing medicine and politics is bad medicine. Just wait until they develop an AIDS vaccine. Any bets on how long it will take them to require everyone to have it?” she wrote.
The Pro-Family Law Center said requiring the vaccine “disturbs a natural incentive for teenage students to abstain from sexual intercourse to avoid the contraction of certain sexually transmitted infections.
“Our society holds strong beliefs granting certain rights to parents with regard to their responsibility to raise their children. Among these rights is that of the parents to choose the proper time and place to discuss the issue of sex with their children. When female students receive the HPV vaccine through a series of three injections over a period of six months, there is little doubt that rumors and discussing among the girls and the general student population will arise on the topic of sex,” the center continued.
“This would lead to false truths being spread to public school students throughout California. By requiring the HPV immunization and subsequently the discussion of sex between young public school girls, the state infringes on the right of parents to choose when it is appropriate to discuss that sensitive issue with their daughter. We believe that parents alone have such a right to decide when and how their children will be exposed to sexual issues.”