Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Perry Was Right on the HPV Vaccine

(c) 2011 by Tom King

Okay, before you flame me, just hear me out.  As conservatives, many of us have developed a knee-jerk reaction around certain issues, especially sex, property and religion. When confronted with certain issues, we often spout slogans without really thinking the thing through.  That tendency among conservative voters has nipped presidential candidate Rick Perry on the backside more than once.

One of the “burning” issues that turns folk against Perry has been the executive order he wrote that would have instituted the HPV vaccine program in Texas. Perry had excellent reasons for doing it the way he did. Had conservatives paid attention, they might have actually agreed with how it was done, but emotion got in the way. 

Knee-jerk conservatives thought:
  1. This is a vaccine for a sexually transmitted disease.
  2. This is like handing out condoms in high school. The governor is accusing Texas girls of being promiscuous.
  3. My little girl will never be promiscuous!
  4. This must be political so the governor must be paying off some drug company or something.
  5. Therefore the governor is bad and a tool of the drug companies.

Here’s me thinking it through and putting myself in the governor’s place (a Biblical principle that is ingrained in me):

  1. The vaccine prevents a deadly, horrific and often fatal disease with a single shot for a lifetime.
  2. The vaccine is thoroughly tested and 100% effective. Side effects are very few as vaccines go.
  3. The governor was close friends with a bright, and likable young woman who died from this disease, who could have been saved had she had the vaccine as a kid. By all accounts the governor was greatly affected by her death.
  4. HPV can cause cervical cancer.  Thirty women a day are diagnosed with cervical cancer in this country.  Eight of ten women will contract some form of HPV in their lifetime. Sixty percent of college women have some form of HPV by their senior year. You don’t have to actually have sex to contract the disease.
  5. For those who don’t want to give the vaccine to their daughters, there’s an opt-out clause.
  6. The company that makes the drug only gave a tiny amount to the governor’s campaign – not nearly enough to buy a governor or to make him do something like this totally in the open.
Why opt-out is better than opt-in

Too many conservatives thought the governor was accusing Texas girls of being slutty and, in particularly, their own little girls and they got all offended without thinking it through.  

Now imagine if you will, how it goes down under an opt-in plan:
  1. You as a parent have to decide whether your elementary school little girl is going to grow up to be promiscuous or not – something you have very little data upon which to base such a decision.
  2. If you fear she might, then you have to “sign ‘er up”, thereby publicly declaring that you doubt your daughter will remain chaste. 
  3. You are also telling your daughter you think she won’t be able to keep her pants on when she grows up.
  4. You’ve just condemned her to take the “slut” walk down to the school nurse or the health clinic to get a shot that will protect her when, as you obviously believe, she inevitably loses her virginity in the back of someone’s van.
  5. Or you don’t get the vaccine, an action which does not affirm your belief in your daughter’s future chastity, only that you don’t want anyone to think your daughter is going to grow up to be a tramp.
  6. The inevitable result is that relatively few girls will get the vaccine.

Now imagine the program as an opt-out plan:
  1. The vaccine is one of the standard series of shots that all the little girls are receiving. So everyone gets the shots and there is no stigma one way or the other. It’s just something we all do because the law requires it.
  2. If you are convinced your little princess won’t ever slip and will remain chaste (as will her future husband), until the day of her wedding, you can march down to the health department and affirm your confidence in your child publicly by opting out.
  3. Opting OUT says publicly that your daughter would never do anything naughty and you trust her. Not opting out makes no comment, but simply obeys the law where vaccines are concerned.
  4. Her friends will know. Not opting out allows you to insure against your daughter making a mistake without branding her as the opt-in plan does. And lest you think (mistakenly) that no one will ever know if you opted in, remember this.  Your daughter will know and that knowledge may cause her to make all kinds of mistaken judgments about what you think of her.
  5. Not only that, but young people are a brutal tribal society. Whether or not your little girl has had the HPV vaccine will, inevitably, become public knowledge, because it’s too convenient a way for kids to sort themselves into groups.  Nasty teenaged boys will, certainly, use that information as a way to brand the “safe” slutty girls whose parents chose to have them vaccinated. I mean, after all, if their parents must think they’re going to be slutty, since they went out of their way to get their daughters protected.  It would be no different than giving your teenage daughter the pill, just in case. It brands her as a “safe” target and sets her up for sexual predators and makes it easier for her to make a "mistake". 
Karen Hughes another Texas governor needs you!
The misinformed uproar over the HPV vaccine was because of the word SEX. Because that word figured into the discussion, a lot of people's eyes glazed over and it became just another sex issue to rant about like sex education or free condoms in high school, and it wasn't that at all. 

Perry did what he thought best and got bit for it.  He could have explained it better, but Perry often neglects the PR.  He needs a Karl Rove and a Karen Hughes on his team to help him articulate what he’s doing. Whoever he’s got now, is reacting, not acting and it’s hurting him.  With Palin out of it, I like the idea of a Perry/Cain ticket more and more. It won’t happen unless Perry gets a stronger support system built around him.

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