Fellow HA blogger Will tosses Governor Rick Perry (R-Texas) a milkbone for requiring that all 11- and 12-year-old girls entering sixth grade be vaccinated against HPV, a sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer. The cost to vaccinate 170,000 sixth-grade girls is estimated at about $60 million, with private insurance covering many families’ costs. Gov. Perry’s executive order also offers free shots to all girls and women age 9 to 21 who are eligible for public assistance.
Like Will, I think vaccination is a good thing. But I’m also a tad suspicious of Gov. Perry’s unexpected leadership on this issue. Gov. Perry is one of those Republicans who has rightly earned a reputation for pandering to the religious right, a group that has loudly voiced concern that vaccinating 11-year-old girls against a sexually transmitted disease is, um, tantamount to encouraging sexual activity amongst 11-year-old girls. (Religious conservatives have such dirty minds.) So one can’t help but wonder if Gov. Perry’s sudden willingness to buck the religious right has anything to do with his close ties to the pharmaceutical company Merck, which manufactures the vaccine and stands to earn millions from the governor’s executive order?
Hmm. Male circumcision has also been proven in study after study to reduce both the incidence of cervical cancer in partners, and the likelihood of catching and transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. And yet without a powerful mohel lobby to force the issue, I don’t see any political momentum towards providing a free bris to boys on public assistance.
If only Merck could patent foreskin removal….