It is estimated that approximately 20 million American men and women are infected with HPV. In most people, HPV appears to go away on its own. In some, the virus has been linked to cervical cancer, abnormal pap tests and genital warts. In the United States, an estimated 10,370 new cases of cervical cancer will be diagnosed in 2005, and there will be an estimated 3,710 deaths from cervical cancer. Genital warts are common - 500,000 to 1,000,000 cases in the United States alone - and treatment options may be painful.
Here's the New York Timesreport:
"The vote all but commits the federal government to spend as much as $2 billion alone on a program to buy the vaccine for the nation's poorest girls from 11 to 18.
"The vaccine, Gardasil, protects against cancer and genital warts by preventing infection from four strains of the human papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted disease, according to federal health officials. The virus is also a cause of other cancers in women."
If you think 11 sounds young for sex, how about age 9--the recommended age in some cases?
But there are a few hitches--such as parents who, uh, balk at the idea of telling prepubescent girls that it's just fine for them to have all the sex they want, 'cuz now they'll be vaccinated! And isn't it against the law to have sex with children? As the Times concedes:"But Gardasil's benefits could be blunted by a complex brew of practical, economic and religious considerations. On the practical side, Gardasil is supposed to be given as three shots over six months. While pediatricians and government health agencies have long been successful in having parents adhere to complex vaccination schedules for infants, older children are more difficult to manage.
"Another challenge is Gardasil's price. At $360 for the three-shot regimen, it is among the most expensive vaccines ever. Because cervical cancer is mostly a disease of poverty, those in most need of the vaccine will be the least able to afford it. State vaccination programs, already under financial strain, may refuse to provide it."
I hope they do refuse. How about telling young teen-agers instead that sexual promiscuity is not only a bad idea but actually dangerous to their health?
Now, this Charlotte Allen has already been eviscerated by Amanda and by zuzu at Feministe. I'd just like to add that Charlotte Allen is disrespectful to the underclass and to pre-school teachers. My mother was the director of a pre-school and I don't think she would agree with the following.
A couple of days ago, my hometown, Washington, D.C., announced a plan to force every single D.C. resident between the ages of 14 and 84 (yes you read that right: 84) to be tested for the AIDS virus, at the cost of God knows how much money. Oh, so what if AIDs in this country in confined to just a few subgroups: mainly gay men plus intravenous drug-users? The idea, I guess, is that if you make everyone take the test, even though the vast majority don't need it, you won't make the subgroups feel bad about themselves. This in a city that apparently can't afford to pay janitors to keep its public schools clean--but let's test Grandma for HIV!
That's what I call the "universal preschool" model of setting up a social program. Preschool confers only marginal benefits on most young children (I sure never went), but it does some good for underclass kids, if only by getting them out of the house and away from their dysfunctional families for a few hours a day. So why not spend a bazillion dollars forcing every single child in the country to attend so those underclass children won't feel bad?
I'll let a snark opportunity go by on whether or not Charlotte could have received more than marginal benefits from some preschool. But, there have been many studies that refute Ms. Allen's contention that preschool does not provide advantages. And while it is probably strictly true that the underclass excels at dysfunctional families, proponents of universal pre-school do not advocate their cause to avoid making the underclass "feel bad". They do so to offer every child the best chance for a healthy intellectual life and a fair shot at success.
I don't really understand why wingnuts exist and why they think the way they do. As zuzu ably pointed out:
First off, why in God's name would you tell your kid -- your 9-year-old kid -- about the connection between this shot and sex? The kid asks why they have to get the shot, you tell them it's so they don't get sick. I know my parents didn't explain in detail disease pathways every time I got a shot as a kid, just that it was going to keep me from getting sick. About the only thing I was ever given any detail on was the odd tetanus shot, and that's because a) there's a cause-effect relationship between getting cut and getting the shot; and b) my dad had had tetanus as a kid and it didn't sound like a very pleasant experience.
Seriously, though, what is the religious-nut obsession with having discussions with your prepubescent children about sex? As if Purity Balls and virginity pledges and fathers being in charge of their daughters' sexuality weren't creeptastic enough, they have to turn a perfectly routine vaccination for a very young girl who probably isn't even that curious about sex yet into some kind of opportunity to obsess about that girl's genitalia?
And, yes, Charlotte, having sex with children is against the law. But children, you may have noticed, grow into adults, who will more than likely have sex. With other people. Who may very well have been exposed to HPV at some point, like the majority of the population. And this is where that herd immunity thing comes in.
And as for it being against the law, well, why don't you ask an altar boy how much that does to stop adults who are determined to have sex with kids?
It's ridiculous that we have to point these things out. Imagine being dissappointed that human ingenuity has discovered a way to keep women from getting nasty genital warts and cervical cancer? Imagine thinking to yourself, "Damn, that's one less reason I can use to convince my daughter to remain chaste"? Imagine thinking that state vaccination programs should refuse to offer this potentially life-saving immunization and instead just give little girls a stern warning about the dangers of sex (including HPV, the virus they will be neglecting to protect them from)?
Maybe we need a vaccination against this kind of thinking. When this type of thinking promulgates its way through the Republican Party and into the halls of power, it amounts to an atrocity. It's an atrocity in lives lost, and it's an atrocity of reason. It's worse than pathetic, it's deeply misguided and immoral.