Monday, February 26, 2007

Vadalia's Response to Alberta Phillips' Feb. 26, 2007, Austin American Statesman Editorial Supporting Gov. Perry's Plan to Vaccinate Girls Against HPV

February 26, 2007

Dear Ms. Phillips:

You make some excellent points in favor of helping to improve women's health. However, there are several reasons why not only social conservatives, but we bleeding heart liberals, are opposed to Perry's order to vaccinate all 11-12 year-old
Texas girls using Merck's new HPV vaccine.

The long-term may prove that Perry is absolutely correct, and that the benefits of the state providing this vaccine to all our "girls" outweigh anything negative. However, Perry absolutely gets a failing grade for the way he went about making his decision and presenting his "order." On Perry's report card, we can write, without compunction, "Perry did not work well with others."

Based on the 2006 elections when Perry was elected with support of only 39% of
Texas voters, we can surmise that the majority of Texas voters do not believe that Perry has a mandate to be a "decider." If anything, the 2006 elections prove that the voting public want less "deciding" and more "participating." We are no longer willing to put our lives and the lives of our children and our grandchildren in the hands of "deciders."

Perry should have respected
Texas' legislative leaders enough to discuss this issue with them. He should have been consulting with the medical community. He should have been talking with educators, and, especially, with women leaders. He should have been talking up the HPV problem with the media, encouraging them to help him get information about this virus, and its prevention, out to the public. Perry could have built a broad web of support and enthusiasm for this project. We all know why we need flu vaccine, tetanus vaccine, and polio vaccine. Who of us, prior to Perry's order, had heard of, or knew why we needed, this vaccine? Because we did not know why we needed this vaccine, legislators, political committee heads, the medical community, and those of us who are news-hounds, and yes, even Perry supporters, were broadsided by Perry's directive.

2006 elections show that voters don't trust politicians. We don't trust our government, either state or federal, the way our parents did - or even as we did prior to 9/11. A lot of us
Texas voters do not trust Perry, or his motives. The entire HPV vaccine issue has the appearance of Perry's "jumping in bed" with Merck. The question going around is, "How does Perry benefit from this deal?" In fact, the tip of the iceberg jumped out of the water when the Associated Press writer, Liz Austin Peterson, reported on February 21, 2007, "A calendar for (Perry's) chief of staff Dierdre Delisi obtained under Texas' open records laws shows she met with the governor's budget director and three members of his office for an "HPV Vaccine for Children Briefing" on Oct. 16. That same day, Merck & Co.'s political action committee donated $5,000 to Perry and a total of $5,000 to eight state lawmakers."

After "thinking long and hard," Perry is hyper-concerned about women's health. In the meantime, according to the chair of the Texas Healthcare Trustees, Harold D. Samuels, in an Austin American-Statesman article
December 20, 2006, "While there is much Texans can be proud of, we also lead the nation in the percentage of our residents who lack basic health care coverage. There are 5.6 million uninsured Texans, a statistic that is staggering, sobering and definitely not something to brag about." Might Texans ask, "Why the concern about the one, and not the other?"

Then there is the vaccine itself. We don't yet trust it. Why should we? The HPV vaccine, which was approved by the FDA in June, 2006, has no long-term history. Too many of us remember Thalidomide, prescribed in the 1950's for pregnant women's morning sickness, resulting in the birth of thousands of deformed babies. We remember Diethylstilbestrol (DES), a hormonal drug prescribed to women between 1940 and 1971 to prevent miscarriages, causing some of their daughters to develop cervical cancer.

Some Americans don't trust the FDA because, increasingly, this agency is seen as too political and too quick to approve medications based on cherry-picked research results. Recent examples are the antibiotic Ketek, approved by the FDA in 2004 to treat sinus and upper respiratory infections. Ketek, 2 years later, after 4 confirmed deaths and links to liver failure in a dozen patients, has been relabeled with a side-effect warning of sudden liver failure and EVEN death, for use as a back-up drug, only, for "community-acquired pneumonia."

Another recent investigation of the ADHD drugs, universally prescribed for our children to prevent "hyperactivity disorder," including Adderall, Concerta, Dexedrine, Ritalin, and Strattera, produced a warning that they can cause serious heart problems, psychotic behavior, and SUDDEN death. How many of our children have been stuffed with these pills for years?

Then there is the $13.5 million verdict against Merck, maker of the pain medication Vioxx, which was approved by the FDA in May 1999, and which was widely prescribed until September 2004, when the trail of heart attacks and strokes could no longer be ignored.

A quick Google search shows other drugs, with serious side effects, which are currently being investigated are Accutane, Bextra, Celebrex, Celexa, Cytotec, Femara, Fosamax, Ortho Evra, Paxil, Prozac, Seroquel and Trasylol. Do we dare trust a new, unproven HPV vaccine to be injected into our young children, for a virus to which they may never be exposed?

Then, there is this question: why vaccinate girls only? I think it is safe to say that it's mostly boys who are infecting girls with HPV. In some instances, boys are also infecting boys, so why not vaccinate boys instead, or boys also? Why just girls?

Finally, many of us would not dream of buying a car (or a computer, a TV, a camera, a stove, etc.) without doing thorough research to make sure it's the right product for us. Personally, I will not "pop a pill" without researching all the possible side-effects and interactions to determine whether I'd rather live with the symptoms I have, rather than the side-effects I might have. Why would I allow my child to be injected on the say-so of a man with no medical training, and no sign that he ever talked to the medical community about this? Why the rush to "git-HER-done!" (pun intended)

If the Governor had brought the legislators on board, respected the citizens, consulted the medical community, worked with the media - in other words, "worked well with others," more Texans might be delighted that the HPV vaccine was going to be provided, and there might be a ground-swell of enthusiasm with (to paraphrase your first paragraph): "Parents and state leaders standing and cheering Gov. Rick Perry for making a bold decision regarding girls' health. Instead the Republican governor is catching all kinds of hell..."

Follow up 29 August 2008: