November 02, 2005

Define "Mandatory"

My three children will be getting vaccinated against the papilloma viruses that can cause cervical cancer and take too many lives each year. I think that Glenn Reynolds is right to tout the vaccine as a worthy advance for human health and to chide those who decry it as sending a bad message on abstinence. After all, if a girl goes to the altar a virgin and remains faithful her entire life, she can still catch the virus from her cheating husband bringing it home. A big part of vaccines is not catching the consequences of somebody else's bad behavior.

And yet, I think that the promoters are going overboard:

"I would like to see it that if you don't have your HPV vaccine, you can't start high school," said Juan Carlos Felix of the University of Southern California, who leads the National Cervical Cancer Coalition's medical advisory panel.

That bothers me. Keeping people out of school because of a lack of shots is supposed to be for safety reasons, not as a punitive measure. The kind of contact that occurs during normal school activity is not going to lead to HPV transmittal. There is no safety argument for denying public schooling as a consequence of not taking this vaccine. Do we really want to expand the criteria for excluding people from an education beyond the safety of other children? If an explosion of home schooling makes this sort of punishment an impractical stick what else can be taken away? A right to drive? A right to drink? What's the natural stopping point?

I'm not sure that there is a natural stopping point. I wish there was. Ace of Spades writes about:

I didn't mention this in the original piece, but there is sometimes an undercurrent of punitive prudery running through these arguments. One can make a good-faith argument against the vaccine, but sometimes people do seem to be thinking, way back in their skulls, "Well, you're a dirty whore. A little cervical cancer'll learn ya."

Punitive prudery sounds pretty awful. In fact, it's probably a good way to get to Hell. But is it appropriately punished by forcing a child out of the public schools?

You can sidestep the question:

Further, when the debate is over the "mandatory" immunization, I assume "mandatory" has wiggle-room in it. I think parents can opt out of MMR vaccination; I assume they could do the same with this one. It might be a pain in the ass to do so, but, you know, if you've chosen to let a kid risk getting cervical cancer which could be prevented by a shot, I think the least you can do is fill out some f'n' paperwork.

but that's just ignoring that first quote. Some public health officials don't want there to be any wiggle room.

I wouldn't have a problem with a few more roadblocks to nonvaccination beyond a little paperwork. In my book, it wouldn't be out of line to track at least the girls and inform them of the issues and offer vaccination when they achieve their majority. I do have a problem with those girls achieving their majority with substandard education because mom and dad have funny beliefs.

Posted by TMLutas at November 2, 2005 12:25 PM