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California’s Gardasil mandate moves forward

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By Michelle Malkin  •  August 29, 2011 09:47 AM

The California legislature is quietly pushing forward with a sweeping proposal to mandate that Gardasil — the vaccine marketed as a shield against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) — can be dispensed by the state to children as young as 12 without the permission of their parents.

I confirmed by phone on Friday with the staff of the bill’s sponsor, California Democratic Assemblywoman Toni Atkins, that the legislation had been voted out of the state Senate Appropriations Committee by 6-3. There were no witnesses or testimony at the hearing. The bill, AB 499, had previously been suspended over cost concerns. Now, it is expected to head quickly to the Senate floor for a full vote this week and supporters believe Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown will sign it.

A previous push to require all California girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated with the HPV Vaccine was withdrawn from the state legislature in 2007. The current bill would circumvent the state’s parental consent laws and “allow a minor who is 12 years of age or older to consent to medical care related to the prevention of a sexually transmitted disease.” The bill states: “The minor’s parents or guardian are not liable for payment for medical care provided pursuant to this section.” So, who is?

From the state Senate Appropriations Committee’s fiscal summary:

As this bill could result in the administration of vaccinations for hepatitis B and the HPV to Medi-Cal beneficiaries between the ages of 12-17 inclusive that would otherwise not have received these vaccinations, there could be increased costs to the Medi-Cal program, which pays a $9 administrative fee to physicians who administer the vaccines to Medi-Cal beneficiaries. All other costs related to vaccines for Medi-Cal beneficiaries under age 19 are paid for by the federally funded Vaccines for Children Program.

Based on Medi-Cal counts as of January 2010, it is assumed there are over 466,000 females and 457,000 males (923,000 total) aged 12 through 17 who are Medi-Cal beneficiaries. Although the main focus of HPV prevention has been on young women, there has been recent research indicating the case for also routinely vaccinating young men for the HPV as well. As a result, there could be costs to administer vaccinations for both young women and men.

For the 923,000 minors aged 12 through 17, a five to ten percent immunization rate for hepatitis B would result in administrative costs ranging from $415,350 to $830,700, fifty percent of which would be a cost to the General Fund. A five to ten percent immunization rate for HPV, which is a three-dose series, would result in administrative costs ranging from $1.2 million to $2.5 million in total funds.

Outside a few pro-life and parental rights activist websites, there has been zero coverage of the latest major attempt by a state government to legislate Gardasil coverage for minors.

California Catholic Daily reports:

“The bill was unexpectedly called back to that committee when it was pointed out that if minors do not need to obtain their parent[s'] consent for the controversial Gardasil HPV vaccination, then the state would have to foot the bill,” explained the Catholic Legislative Network in an email. “Analysis undertaken for the Senate Appropriations Committee could not project the number of children, 12 -17, who might seek the vaccination without letting their parents know. The document, however, estimated the cost at $75,000 to $155,000 per 100 children vaccinated. The drug maker is now recommending the shots for boys as well, making it even harder to project total costs according to the staff report.”

…“This bill is an end run by the pharmaceutical giant Merck to push their vaccine, Gardasil, on California children at taxpayer’s expense,” said May. “A major public outcry in 2007 killed an effort to make the vaccinations mandatory when Merck proposed it then…“It is time for parents and anyone who cares about the welfare of California’s children to mobilize,” said [Catholic leader Bill] May. “Let’s flood senator[s'] offices with phone calls and letters.”

There was another major public outcry in 2007 regarding a separate, but related Gardasil mandate, of course — the Texas GOP Gov. Rick Perry’s Gardasil executive order debacle.

Perry supporters continue to invoke the “opt out” clause as a defense of the Texas measure. But undergirding the Perry decree is the anti-free market belief that it is necessary and right to force private insurance companies to pay for middle-school-age children’s Gardasil injections. Under Texas law, health insurance plans must provide coverage for all mandated vaccinations. There is no “opt out” provision from this mandate. So if Perry’s EO had been implemented, every private insurance plan would have been required to pay for Gardasil vaccinations.

This is not merely a “social” issue. It goes to core fiscal and free-market principles. Forcing insurers to cover treatments is generally referred to by us limited government advocates as a, yes, mandate. Interfering with existing contracts between private companies and their clients is generally referred to by us fiscal conservatives as, yes, big government. These bottomless benefits mandates drive up the cost of health insurance and contribute to the problem of the uninsured (be sure to click that link and check out page 3, which shows that Texas has the 4th highest number of mandated benefits laws in the country). Texas, perhaps not coincidentally, also has the highest rate of uninsured in the country.

Those of us who have opposed Obamacare from day one have argued that policymakers should be trying to reduce the cost of health insurance, not increase costs by mandating coverage of every A-to-Z treatment and procedure.

I’ve already addressed the critical distinction between traditional school-age vaccines for communicable diseases such as polio and measles versus behavioral/lifestyle immunizations for sexually-transmitted diseases such as HPV and Hepatitis B. They are simply not comparable.

As a follow-up to debate over my recent Perry/Gardasil post, I’ll add a few more points.

My intellect, integrity, political motives, and sanity have all been questioned as a result of my long-held opinions on the need for vigilant scrutiny and skepticism of top-down vaccine initiatives sponsored by both Republicans and Democrats. I’ve been called “anti-vaccine” despite the fact that my kids are up to date on their plethora of vaccines with the exception of Gardasil, which I have refused for my 11-year-old daughter for now. Vaccine experts themselves admit the wear-off time for Gardasil is uncertain; some estimate it might be 10 years. Why not wait then until my daughter’s 15 or 16 instead of 11?

Unlike the old days (which some of my critics who may not have children seem to still be operating under), the current CDC vaccine schedule is clogged with more than a dozen different vaccines, many of which must be taken several times during the course of childhood. The long-term synergistic effects of all of these vaccines are unknown; as the vaccine pipeline fills up, concerns about those synergistic effects should give parents even more pause.

My husband and I chose to delay — delay temporarily, not deny permanently — several vaccines for our infant son nearly eight years ago. After researching health problems with the rotavirus vaccine and others, we determined that it’s not a bad idea for parents to wait a few years after a new vaccine hits the market to see how things go. (When Rick Perry signed his Executive Order, Gardasil had been on the market for a matter of months and had been tested on only several hundred 11- and 12-year old girls.)

We were treated like pariahs by our then-pediatrician for delaying some vaccines. I know from personal experience that the pressure to submit children to government-minted vaccine schedules without question or challenge is immense. I blogged in 2007 about the appalling plight of parents in Prince George’s County, Maryland, who were threatened with jail time by public school officials if they didn’t get their kids vaccinated with chickenpox and hepatitis B shots.

Gardasil mandate-promoters glibly point to “opt out” provisions with a naivete or willful blindness toward the hostility conscientious objectors face in the government-run health care and education systems. Just ask Catholic medical providers in the Age of Obama how it’s working out for them.

I have been a staunch defender of the pharma industry against anti-capitalist attacks from the left and right. But I have refused to be coerced or bullied into anything regarding my kids’ health– especially when it comes to new behavioral/lifestyle vaccines. I cannot ignore lobbyists and politicians who provide incomplete/incorrect information and obfuscations about the duration of vaccine protection. And whether the mandate-pusher has an “R” or “D” by his or her name, his or her crony ties to Big Pharma lobbyists and donors are and will be fair game for scrutiny and exposure.

If this makes me “fringe,” I’ll wear it proudly.

If more taxpayers and patients were as immune to Nanny State schemes, imagine how much healthier we’d all be.

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