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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: Taking a vaccine that has only been tested for a relatively short period of time means that implementation of a mandate will not be met with open arms. Gardasil is still in its preliminary stages of study. Any vaccine should be tested for years before it is forced into people's systems. The claim that this vaccination has proved its effectiveness at preventing the spread of HPV is well-backed by scientific research so far, but it has been less than 6 years since Gardasil was first introduced. It simply has not been a long enough study to legitimize it as a mandatory vaccination for the American population. The current state of the vaccine is preferable to mandatory treatment specifically because of our inability to foresee the long-term consequences of injection. The most appropriate path is to increase awareness of HPV and the harm it poses to the infected, and to look into ways of cutting the cost of the series of injections. If more people understand the potential benefits to taking Gardasil, they may be more inclined to spend money on a vaccine that has untested long-term side effects. Essentially, I think that reducing the cost will equate to more people agreeing to join the inflow of test subjects for the potentially life-saving vaccination. I think it is important to consider weighing the urgency to prevent such an infectious virus and the potential risks of enforcing the injection of a relatively untested vaccine by citizens of the US.

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