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Perry’s Good Intentions: Vaccinating Texas Girls

September 14, 2011

Doctrine Man asked for our opinion on Republicans’ misguided attack on the equally misguided Perry over the HPV vaccinations in Texas.

My opinion is fairly straightforward: I think both of these spoogecanoes need a firm spanking.

First, let’s look at Perry’s intentions:

“I am always going to err on the side of life. And that’s what this was really all about for me,” he said Monday night.

ORLY, Mr. >200 executions? Err on the side of life, you say? I doubt that. Regardless, this could be a very good idea.

Now let’s look at what the other Republican candidates object to:

“It can have very dangerous side effects,” Bachmann said on NBC. “There’s no second chance for these little girls if there’s any dangerous consequences to their bodies or for their parents.”

Rick Santorum, a social conservative, went after the governor on the grounds that “this disease is spread through sexual contact” and “unless 11- and 12-year-olds in the state of Texas are somehow encouraged to participate in that activity, this is not something that the state or federal government should be doing,” the former Pennsylvania senator said on the Fox News channel.

On the one hand, I understand the chafing against forced inoculation and vaccination. I don’t like that I take my kids in for a check up, and they come out with five needle sticks…at six months old. It seems excessive to me, and when we look at the immune issues cropping up in Americans these days (e.g. holy shit peanut allergies and other auto-immune WTFkery), I have to wonder if we’re doing the right thing by vaccinating against colds and stubbed toes. Dangerous and highly infectious diseases? Hellz yeah. It’s a public safety issue at that point, and only religious and health issues (e.g. I will never take a flu vaccination because two family members have suffered Guillain-Barre, and like effing hell will you catch me chancing that) should pre-empt a government mandate.

So I do see a very good nugget of an idea in Perry’s mandate. Circumventing four vectors of potential cancer in women? Score! Making it possible for low-income and insurance-free girls to obtain the same health shield? Awesome! The man’s working toward the greater good, even if he’s full of “Culture of Life” shit and really more concerned with scoring Merck’s backing for a potential presidential campaign.

And Bachmann…well, she’s f*cking fruitcake, bat guano, stray yowling crazy anyway, so it’s no shock to see her trotting out conspiracy theory fodder here. Let’s just call a spade a crazy-talking freak and go on to the tastier objections. Namely, Santorum’s “family-focused” bollocks.

I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “I was totes gonna cowgirl ride that hot stud, but then I was like oh shit, what if he has HPVeeeee!” Replace that with HIV or syphilis or necrotic dong syndrome, and yes. I have heard that comment. But HPV? No. So do I think someone who’s had the vaccine is going to take that as carte blanche to connect with her sexuality? Doubtful. Likely she’ll continue on as she would have without the vaccine. And since you can get HPV even with a condom, let’s call it a bit of a win-win, shall we?

Frankly, given the level of slut-shaming by the same groups that are so focused on the family, I’m inclined to believe the anti-vacciners like Bachmann and Santorum are really more concerned about ensuring sluts die of cancer than ensuring the general wellness of the public. But perhaps I’m just being unkind*.

Here’s my biggest beef about this whole hooplah, though. Why are girls the only ones being vaccinated?

Girls bear the brunt of HPV in that it can cause cancer that boys won’t get. But there can be other symptoms of HPV, which boys will suffer from as girls do. Ahem, genital warts, anyone? So why aren’t boys being vaccinated? Isn’t this a general health concern in spite of the worst tolls (of the potentially lethal variety) being those on girls? And boys are just as likely to spread the HPV wealth as girls, after all. Just because all Texas girls** are vaccinated doesn’t mean an Oklahoma girl can’t sneak across the border and spread some warty love, right? We don’t gender-fy measles, do we? We don’t insist the lowest classes (those more prone to malnourishment*** and therefore to infectious disease) be the only ones to receive vaccinations, so why are girls the only ones Perry wanted to vaccinate against something that affects and is spread by both sexes?

Considering the additional money Merck could make off vaccinating all 11-13 year-olds against HPV, my guess is sexist perspective (ie. girls are ultimately responsible for the consequences of sex, those hell-bound Jezebels!) offset greed. But then, that might be an unkind assumption****.

Do I agree with Perry’s desire for “life”, even if I think the route was misguided? Sho ’nuff. Do I agree that Bachmann is mofo-ing crazy? Absolutely*****. Do I think Santorum should STFU? Is that a real question?

I suppose in the end it’s a slightly good sign for Perry’s ability to summon common sense. But only slightly. After all, this mandate seems to negate his belief that abstinence-only educational funding is money well spent.


* It could happen. I guess.

**Minus the handful who manage to opt out.

***Excepting the upper class folks with socially-induced body dysmorphia disorder, natch.

****I wouldn’t bet on that one, though.

*****You can see it. IN HER EYES.

11 Comments leave one →
  1. Leiyaly permalink
    September 14, 2011 8:39 pm

    I think there’s this huge assumption that Gardasil is ONLY for the “girls that sleep around.” I think that’s an incredibly dangerous assumption to make, especially when Gardasil has been proven to be effective against cervical cancer, and last time I checked, having cervical cancer didn’t mean you were screwing around. Getting an abnormal pap smear does not equal big ol’ slutbag. If it did, then I don’t want to know what my 80 year old grandmother’s doing.

    It’s also entirely possible that that poor, sweet Texan virgin could get HPV from her “boys will be boys” Texan husband.

    And I agree, I don’t think anyone is thinking “Oh gee, I totes got the vaccine, and now I can go have teh sex with as MANY PEOPLE AS POSSIBLE.” If people want to do the dirty, they’ll do it, with or without the vaccine. And if they still want to do the dirty (but save it for marriage), then they’ll find alternative means.

    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      September 14, 2011 8:45 pm

      Word, word, and also word.

    • September 15, 2011 10:03 am

      I totally agree!

      And PS – great post as always Snarky.

  2. September 14, 2011 9:07 pm

    I agree that ALL teens, regardless of gender should be vaccinated. It was implied, but not explicitly stated in my post. I am not certain that the strain of HPV that causes genital warts is the same as the strain that causes cancer, so I wanted to be careful about making such an assertion.

    The HPV vaccine does not protect against all strains of HPV, only those known to cause cancer, or at least that is my understanding. If my understanding is correct, this may be why the vaccine is mandated for young women and not for young men.

    I also wanted to be careful not to criticize someone who may have taken a half-assed measure when it was pretty damn progressive compared to that of his colleagues. I am not a fan of Rick Perry. His views on science are positively dangerous, like scary dangerous.

    • snarkynavywife permalink*
      September 14, 2011 9:30 pm

      As I understand it, this vaccine doesn’t prevent all causes of HPV-induced cervical cancer but rather only four types. And one of these types, if I recall from chatting with my biochemist friend back in the day, can exhibit warts.

      Perry scares the bejesus out of me for many, many reasons. I will criticize the shit out of him. I don’t know why he actually wanted to mandate the vaccinations, but I think it was the one good idea I’ve heard come from him during this campaign cycle. But did I mention my bejesus is gone thanks to him?

      • September 15, 2011 7:31 am

        I agree he is scary and I am glad you posted, because you have the latitude to say things I can’t. For me it’s an issue of credibility. If I don’t have a good resource on something science related and I don’t have the time to look it up, then I can’t say it.
        Perry is scary for many reasons, but he did do one thing right here. I can’t say that I have seen Bachmann do anything right.

    • Leiyaly permalink
      September 14, 2011 9:40 pm

      The strain of HPV that causes genital warts is one of the many strains that can cause cervical, anal, vaginal, or penile cancer, and Gardasil is in the process of being tested (in terms of effectiveness) for those strains. So far, Gardasil was approved by the FDA for prevention of HPV strains 6, 11, 16, and 18. The problem with the vaccine is that though it’s effective for one stage of HPV until mid 40s, once you hit a certain age, it isn’t effective to prevent cervical cancer.

      There has been talk of vaccinating young men, especially since both young men and young women carry the vaccine. But penile and anal cancers are much less common than cervical cancers, and thus young men are assumed to “not need it as much.”

      And I agree re: Rick Perry.

      • September 15, 2011 10:06 am

        My thinking in having boys get the vaccine is this… if the guys are protected against these strains of HPV, then they are less likely to contract it and then give it to women. So while it may not seem necessary to protect themselves against penile and anal cancers since it is not nearly as common, I think its a good idea to get it to help protect the women they may encounter in the future.

        • Leiyaly permalink
          September 15, 2011 10:26 am

          Completely agree. I think in terms of HPV, men are most likely to be carriers of the disease (largely because testing for HPV re: men is more difficult than women), and thus reducing the amount of carriers = reducing the overall amount.

  3. kimba permalink
    September 15, 2011 3:18 am

    Pandagon has a pretty good take on it:

    In the end, isn’t it really just that simple? Almost everyone has sex at some point in their lives. Like many other activities involving contact with other humans, there is a risk of spreading disease involved. So, let’s mitigate that risk whenever it’s medically feasible. Done.

    From what I understand, this vaccine is given to sixth grade girls (why just girls, I don’t know) because that’s when the vaccine does the most good, not because anyone necessarily thinks girls this age are ready for sexual activity. It’s a simple thing, but deliberately misinterpreting simple things to whip up simple people is how politics gets done now. Yay us.

    What would these clowns do if there was an AIDS vaccine for crissakes? What if it was most effective when given to children? Consider their reaction to that vs. their reaction to a breast cancer or colon cancer vaccine for children.

    • Leiyaly permalink
      September 15, 2011 10:27 am

      But kimba….. it’s known that only gay people get AIDS. (totally kidding)

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