Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Leah Vukmir: wrong on public health.

Hi folks,

The vaccine for HPV is out and available. They've made it mandatory in -- of all places -- Texas (with an opt-out clause for people afraid of needles) and since a preponderance of American women are almost guaranteed to eventually contract the virus over the next 15 years, we should think about recommending it here in Wisconsin.

But not Rep. Leah Vukmir.

Bob Hague from the Wisconsin Radio Network reports:
A state lawmaker says she'll oppose mandatory vaccines against a virus that causes cervical cancer. Representative Leah Vukmir's concerns include whether state should even be mandating the vaccines. "That discussion really should be taking place between doctors and patients," says the Milwaukee Republican. "We in Madison really shouldn't be making that decision."
I wonder whether Rep. Vukmir believes any child in Wisconsin should receive any vaccinations and, if so, what distinguishes this vaccine from the polio vaccine?


Anonymous said...

Hey MC:

Estimates place the number of women who contract HPV at about 70%. Most women's immune systems defeat and that is the end of it.

An important note - the vaccine only attacks 4 of the several hundred HP viruses.

Weiwen Ng said...

specifically, Gardasil, the proposed vaccine, attacks the four strains most likely to cause cervical cancer. it is quite effective, although it is expensive.

what makes HPV different from polio is the degree of morbidity associated. women in the US are supposed to get Pap smears, which can detect cervical cancer early and enable treatment. the prevalence of cervical cancer is far lower than the prevalence of polio was. also, the morbidity now associated with cervical cancer is lower than the morbidity associated with polio then. additionally, HPV is generally transmitted through sexual contact; polio and smallpox are infectious diseases.

the costs associated with cervical cancer may not be sufficient to justify a vaccine mandate. polio and smallpox were sufficient threats to justify a vaccine mandate with little chance for opting out.

as for HPV, I'm not certain that states should mandate it. I wouldn't complain if they did, but states also need to consider the costs of the vaccine, and how they will make sure the most vulnerable get it. it is in fact poor women who are least likely to get Pap smears. public vaccination programs would need to cover Gardasil if there were a mandate.

Leah Vukmir is not crazy merely to be opposing HPV vaccination. however, she is crazy for a whole bunch of other reasons.