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Srdjan Kamenko

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When it comes to vaccine intervention for disease control, should personal liberty go before the benefit to society?

This question is extremely important when one considers current news on the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. The main vaccine, Gardasil, has been widely used on women ages 9-26 since its introduction in 2006. The vaccine first made waves in 2007 when Texas governor Rick Perry issued an executive order to mandate the vaccine for all young women in Texas. Even though it was met with much opposition and ultimately failed, the question still remained: should we have a mandatory HPV vaccine for all women? The two sides of the argument clash, each bringing significant evidence to bear on the issue. Mathematical models indicate that with a vaccine as effective as this one (about 100%), mandating the vaccine will stamp out the virus types targeted by the vaccine. HPV is the most common STI with 45% of college age women currently infected. Freeing society of such a dangerous virus, the number one cause of cervical cancer, is a highlight of the pro-mandate argument. The opposition suggests that personal liberty is at stake, and that parents should have the choice to vaccinate their children if they believe the vaccine is worth it for them. What do you think? Is it reasonable to limit personal liberty for the good of the community in the face of a spreading killer virus?

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    Mar 7 2012: I heard it said that men can have HPV also, but they cannot be tested for it. Why can they not be tested for it?

    Also, the proposal that it be mandated for women is based on the fact that HPV causes a huge risk for cervical cancer, which men cannot get (for obvious reasons). People ask why not make males get it too, but I ask why not mandate it for all women. If a lot men get the vaccine and women still get HPV, then it doesn't help reduce cervical cancer risks, right? And therefore vaccination is less useful if the non-vaccinated women still get HPV and subsequently cervical cancer , right?
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      Mar 7 2012: For your first question regarding the test for men, here is a quote from the CDC: "Currently, there is no HPV test recommended for men. The only approved HPV tests on the market are for screening women for cervical cancer. They are not useful for screening for HPV-related cancers or genital warts in men."
      Source: http://www.cdc.gov/std/hpv/STDFact-HPV-and-men.htm

      We can think of a situation in which both men and women get vaccinated, that way the woman are protected against cervical cancer while the men are 1) stopped from giving it to them (for the most part) 2) protected against the majority of genital warts types.
      • Mar 7 2012: Getting back to the root issue of your question, do you think if such a vaccine for men were made, would it be more successful (than the current plan) to make it mandatory? Or, if it were required for both men and women, do you think we would be able to get past the women's rights issue and overlook the more general human rights issue?

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