Guinea Pigs for Profit?

I hope you all have been able to read about my fascinating trip to Pakistan. Feel free to post your comments! We’ve generated a lot of interest in this country and our humanitarian work.

When I arrived home, I was looking for my letter to People, which was to be published. They only published two lines, which were pretty generic, and missed the whole point of why I wrote. Now I know how my writers feel when I edit them! Here’s what I really wrote:

“I was outraged to read about legislation to mandate that 9-year-old girls in Texas get the Gardasil vaccine for human papilloma virus (HPV) or face expulsion from public school. Kudos to Merck for developing this vaccine for this virus, which has been linked to cervical cancer, but it should be a matter of choice. I am behind the parents’ moral outrage 100% but this is also a violation of civil rights. Children are entitled to an education, a right not contingent on a disease that is not a pandemic. It’s not the chicken pox, measles or bird flu. You get this virus by sexual contact. A girl should be educated about its availability, and given a choice to use it when the time is right. This is a family and eventually individual decision.

“But your article missed an even greater outrage. This could be mostly about economics. Pharmaceutical companies are among the most powerful lobbyists. They wield extraordinary influence over lawmakers and the doctors who drive the clinical studies and who prescribe. Mandating a vaccine for such a young population not even at risk is irresponsible, immoral and smacks of being profit driven. Your readers should know that the internet is buzzing with questions: Does Texas Governor Rick Perry have ties to Merck? Is his former Chief of Staff currently the head of Merck’s Texas lobbying team? Did Perry receive $6,000 in campaign contributions from Merck? And, could mandating vaccinations help cover sales lost by the withdrawal of Merck’s Vioxx from the market? 20 states are now considering forcing our girls to get this vaccine. Are our little girls going to be guinea pigs for profit? Shame on Merck, and Texas Governor Perry. Parents, fight this one on moral, civil and economic grounds, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

Note: Gardasil does not guarantee protection against HPV, and does not protect against all types of cervical cancer.

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