Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Gostin on HPV Vaccination
The current issue of JAMA contains a brief commentary (subscription required) by Larry Gostin, public-health law-professor extraordinaire, on the politics and history of mandatory vaccination for human papillomavirus ("HPV"). HPV is a sexually-transmitted virus which is responsible for much cervical cancer in women, for a large portion of oral cancers, and for some forms of genital warts. Gostin clearly seems to favor mandatory HPV vaccination, though--given the political heat that's surrounded the HPV vaccination because of its relationship to adolescent sexuality--he's willing to give publicity and public funding a shot at upping the vaccination rates before pushing the mandates. I agree that HPV vaccination would be good for public health, but I worry that an HPV mandate will move some parents (e.g., those who are offended at the state's implication that their child is or will be sexually active) to make serious efforts to exempt their children from all publicly-mandated vaccinations. In other words, an anti-HPV backlash could translate into an anti-vaccine backlash of the sort earlier associated with the vaccine/autism scare.