First, some background:
A new vaccine aimed at halting the spread of a common sexually transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer should eventually be given to both sexes, doctors said Monday.
The vaccine, Merck & Co.’s Gardasil, was licensed in June by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in women and girls 9 to 26 years of age.
Gardasil protects against four types of the human papillomavirus, also known as HPV or human wart virus.
Yay, science! I couldn’t be happier (or less surprised) that modern science has triumphed again to make our lives better. Treating progress as good seems to be a generally advisable position. As such, I have no qualms about this vaccine’s availability. Some people can’t leave it at that:
Bradley Monk, associate professor in gynecologic oncology at the University of California at Irvine, said the best use of the vaccine would include giving it to girls and boys and all women and men, regardless of individual risk factors.
“To have a vaccine that prevents cancer and not use it would be one of the greatest tragedies,” Monk said.
I’m not going to turn this into a rant against vaccinations of any kind, because that’s not my position. But as I’ve pointed out before in numerous different ways, the person undergoing medical procedures should have input, whether direct consent or indirect assumptions based on evidence. It might be useful to include an HPV vaccine in routine childhood immunizations. In all likelihood, after some thought on the subject, I’d agree. However, I will discount any scientist who uses regardless of individual risk factors as a dismissal of intelligent objections. The public good is important, but we’re not at a point where individual lives are less than the whole. HPV is sexually transmitted, unlike polio, for instance. Personal behavior matters. As such, individual risk factors matter and must be included in the decision.