And now, a special edition of fact checking the Repulican debates. This isn't just the usual lies, where they think on their feet, spin, and hope no one looks to close. This is blatant stupidity. This is willful ignorance. This needs to be addressed.
This is what I do. And I do it --
First, a little background -- HPV is short for human papillomavirus. It gets news because it is the first virus that has been proven to cause cancer. Strictly speaking, HPV is not that big a deal. Most people get it and their bodies fight off the virus like they would any other virus. Oftentimes, people don't even know they get it. It is estimated at, at any given moment, 20 million people in the US have the disease. The problem is that not everyone sheds it. Each year, twelve thousand women wind up getting cervical cancer from it.
Because HPV is not statistically life threatening, the vaccine (three separate injections at $100 each as of a couple of years ago) is considered voluntary and not covered under health care plans. It doesn't help that HPV is classified as a sexually transmitted disease, and any insurance filing involving STI's sends your insurance costs through the fucking roof because you are practicing a potentially risky lifestyle (anyone looking for a bug test goes to a free clinic instead of their regular health plan doctor or finds some way to keep the test off their record). Remember, insurance companies are in business to make money, and if they even think they have to pay out for you, you're going to pay out in return.
(Note: this also leaves guys out in the cold. Guys, obviously, don't get cervical cancer. However, the virus will trigger a wart outbreak that can't be gotten rid of. Smart guys get themselves vaccinated for HPV because they recognize the patently obvious -- women are far more likely to have sex with you if you don't have warts on your dick. They doin' it for the pussy. Anyway, guys who have tried getting insurance to cover the vaccine are told it won't be covered because, "HPV? That's a women's disease." Science makes us smarter, but clearly results don't happen overnight.)
So, on February 2, 2007, Texas governor Perry signed an executive order requiring girls to be vaccinated for HPV (which, presumably, also forced it to be covered by health plans). Lest you think this is government intrusion, Perry's order included an opt-out for parents who didn't want to do it. The Texas lege put things in motion to override his executive order. Reason? A lot of R supporters (such as in Waco, Texas, the Vatican City of the Southern Baptists) prefer abstinence-only stance when it comes to sex, and anything that even hints that it could enable people to enjoy sex at will (birth control, for example) must be stopped because it will be the downfall of American society and all that rot. The idea of requiring people be protected from an STI smelled like Perry endorsing sex, and that had to be stopped. Perry dug in his heels, saying the lege was "on the wrong side of science." The lege overrode him anyway. I know I give Perry a lot of shit, but in this instance, my hat is off to him.
When Perry last ran for gov in 2010, his opponent, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, tried using this "endorsement" of sex against him. Didn't work, Perry squashed her like a grape. However, the issue is not dead. At the last Republican debate, Michelle Bachmann tried using it to bash Perry. "I’m a mom. And I’m a mom of three children. (Bachmann is a mom of three girls, but five children total. "I love you, son, and I'm sorry I ignored you, but I can't exploit you poitically, so that's how it goes." -- G) And to have innocent little twelve-year-old girls be forced to have a government injection through an executive order is just flat out wrong. That should never be done. It’s a violation of a liberty interest. That’s -- little girls who have a negative reaction to this potentially dangerous drug don’t get a mulligan. They don’t get a do-over. The parents don’t get a do-over." She also tried to redress the order as a gift to the pharacutical industry. "What I’m saying is that it’s wrong for a drug company, because the governor’s former chief of staff was the chief lobbyist for this drug company. The drug company gave thousands of dollars in political donations to the governor, and this is just flat-out wrong. The question is, is it about life, or was it about millions of dollars and potentially billions for a drug company?" After the debate, Bachmann went on and on in interviews, linking the HPV vaccine to mental illness, saying that a mom in the audience told her that, after her daughter got the vaccine, her daughter became "retarded."
Bachmann, you just went full derp. Not exactly surprising. Bachmann was described by the New Yorker as "the most intellectually irresponsible candidate in the Republican field." Among the "science" Bachmann espouses are little gems like this:
"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even on stdy that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas." (Not only is this bullshit, but on September 7th of this year in Pooler, Georgia, an 80 year old woman died at McDonald's because the fizzy drink machine's bleed line for carbonation was "improperly disconnected within the wall cavity" and built up CO2 levels in the bathroom she was in to lethal levels. Six other customers and three firefighters had to be treated at the hospital due to the gas.) "Carbon dioxide is natural, it is not harmful, it is a part of the Earth's lifecycle. And yet we're being told that we have to reduce this natural substance, reduce the American standard of living, to create an arbitrary reduction in something that is naturally occuring in Earth."
The facts about HPV were laid out in Perry's executive order. It reads, "WHEREAS, immunization from vaccine-preventable diseases such as Human Papillomavirus (HPV) protects individuals who receive the vaccine; andWHEREAS, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection-causing cancer in females in the United States; and WHEREAS, the United States Food and Drug Administration estimates there are 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer, many of which are caused by HPV, and 3,700 deaths from cervical cancer each year in the United States; and WHEREAS, the Texas Cancer Registry estimates there were 1,169 new cases and 391 deaths from cervical cancer in Texas in 2006; and WHEREAS, research has shown that the HPV vaccine is highly effective in preventing the infections that are the cause of many of the cervical cancers; and WHEREAS, HPV vaccine is only effective if administered before infection occurs; and WHEREAS, the newly approved HPV vaccine is a great advance in the protection of women’s health; and WHEREAS, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend the HPV vaccine for females who are nine years through 26 years of age;"
Oh, and a bioethicist named Art Caplan is offering $10,000 if Bachmann can produce one shred of proof that the HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Yes, he's betting serious money. He feels Bachmann is causing the public to doubt potentially life-saving medicine.
Expect this to pop up more and more as Obamacare becomes the flag the R's use to rally the troops around, despite the opt-out of the plan Perry put in there. All I want to know is what in the name of all that is holy makes Bachmann someone that should be trusted to determine what is best for US citizens.
Oh, and if your health plan covers it, get those shots. It could save your life. It could save your sex life. Either way, it's good for you.