Thursday, February 22, 2007
As you are all well aware, law year, the FDA approved the cervical cancer vaccine HPV, manufactured by Merck. This was an important break through and public health experts began to focus on how to encourage the use of the vaccine, which is best provided at a young age. Last month, Texas Governor Rick Perry mandated the vaccine for all Sixth grade girls (11-12 year olds). His move has met some resistance from the state legislators. Now, other public health officials and state representatives across the country are re-considering how to handle the distribution of the vaccine. Unfortunately, there is the argument that this vaccine will encourage young women to have sex, but that is not all -- Merck, with a potentially large profit-motive, has been very aggressive about encouraging the mandate for the vaccine and that has made some public health officials uneasy (the drug is not cheap). National Public Radio's Morning Edition had a brief spot on the controversy this morning, featuring Professor Larry Gostin. I am not sure what the best answer is in terms of how to make the public most comfortable with this important and potentially life saving vaccine. Hopefully, Merck's behavior will not cause states to back away from considering the best way to ensure that as many young girls receive the vaccine as possible.