Saturday, February 17, 2007

More Thoughts on HPV Vaccine

Yesterday's post on the coming debate on mandatory HPV vaccine prompted reply posts by Jill, Michael and Gloria. The concensus seems to be vaccine law OK, but people generally want an opt-out. I dropped an impertinent comment on a post Bitch wrote against prosecuting mothers fro drug use while pregnant and utterly failed to generate an argument because people can fall back on the opt-out.

I just posted a response to Jill's question about how Ohio's immunization laws are structured. It's reporoduced below, and since you come by the House of Pho, you get the citations as well. We're all about customer service here. You can follow along at Anderson's Online.

By state law, any student enrolled in a school for which the State Board of Education sets minimum standards must have a set of immunizations. § 3313.671. As far as I can tell, the mandate includes all schools since the State Board is charged with setting minimum standards for "all elementary and secondary schools." § 3301.07. Local school boards have to write regulations to ensure that all their kids are immunized. § 3313.67.

Ohio's mandate offers exceptions:

    (4) A pupil who presents a written statement of the pupil's parent or guardian in which the parent or guardian declines to have the pupil immunized for reasons of conscience, including religious convictions, is not required to be immunized.

    (5) A child whose physician certifies in writing that such immunization against any disease is medically contraindicated is not required to be immunized against that disease.
Also, and I know this from experience, the state Department of Job and Family Services mandates the same set of immunizations for any child enrolled in a preschool or daycare facility.

Just to clarify what I quickly jotted down yesterday, an opt-out is particularly important in this case. The public health implications of HPV are fundamentally different than those of, say, a whooping cough epidemic. Not to dismiss the personal costs of HPV -- I have two daughters after all. But an epidemic of a readily communicable disease rips at the fabric of society in a way that goes beyond personal tragedy.

The HPV vaccine is a course of three injections given over three months and costs around $400. Absent a compelling public policy justification, we have to respect the rights of people to make decisions about the care of their children, even when those decisions are potentially horribly, fatally wrong.

Finally, and most importantly, what about the boys? If the law is to justify intruding into family decision making based on public health concerns, it surely seems that carriers of HPV should be immunized as well as those whose health is seriously compromised. Currently the vaccine isn't approved for boys, though Merck is trying to change that.

Once that is accomplished, it seems to me that the vaccine should be mandatory for your sons as well as my daughters.


Anonymous said...

WRT ORC 3301.07, the minimum standards (really the state's K-12 quality policy, known as Operating Standards for Ohio's Schools) lives in OAC 3301-35. OAC 3301-35-12 places chartered, non-public (e.g. Jewish, Catholic, Lutheran) schools under most of 3301-35 (school transportation in exchange for adopting a compliant immunization policy, etc); 3301-35-08 exempts non-chartered non-publics (AKA "OH-EIGHT," typically "Christian") schools from most of OAC 3301-35.

Winning the "Must Have Been Done By Committe" Award, note that "Community Schools" (which would be called "charter schools" but for the fact that school charters are revoked for noncompliance with the state's K-12 quality policy) are exempt from OAC 3301-35.

So, AFAIK, regular public schools and chartered non-public schools need to comply with immunization laws via ORC 3301.07 and OAC 3301-35. Non-chartered non-publics and community schools might need to comply, but not via the Operating Standards (OAC 3301-35).

In any case, 615 local school districts may be updating their board policy in response to possible legislation. Let's hope Alliance City School District changes the name of its policy, currenly known as the "Casual-Contact Communicable Disease Policy:"
For purposes of this policy, "casual-contact communicable disease" shall include diphtheria, scarlet fever and other strep infections, whooping cough, mumps, measles, rubella, chicken pox, and others designated by the Ohio Department of Public Health.