Opponents: Calif. vaccine bill will give taxpayer boost to drug companies
By Kevin J. Jones
A teenager receives a vaccination. Credit: CDC-James Gathany
A teenager receives a vaccination. Credit: CDC-James Gathany

.- California Gov. Jerry Brown should veto a bill allowing 12-year-olds to consent to STD vaccinations or treatment without their parents’ knowledge, bill opponents say. They warn that the bill violates parents’ rights and could give pharmaceutical companies $360 per child vaccinated, at taxpayer expense.

“This legislation is going to disenfranchise parents, and taxpayers are going to subsidize that disenfranchisement,” said Kevin Snider, lead attorney for the California-based Pacific Justice Institute.

The California Senate passed the bill on a 22-17 vote on Aug. 31.

Snider said his organization was “very disappointed” by the vote. He urged the state’s citizens to write  Gov. Brown and highlight the costs of providing treatments to young people like the Merck corporation’s Gardasil HPV vaccine or the GlaxoSmithKline company’s Cervarix vaccine.

“This will cost taxpayers money,”  he told CNA on Sept. 2.

“They expect the taxpayers to pay for it. The bill will be split 50-50 between the state and federal funds.”

A five to ten percent immunization rate for HPV among the state’s 923,000 eligible minors would result in administrative costs ranging from $1.2 million to $2.5 million, an analysis from the California Senate Appropriations Committee said.

However, the bill also includes language that says parents’ insurance will not be responsible for the costs. This would allow minors’ vaccinations to be funded through the federal Vaccines for Children Program. Using the committee’s immunization rate estimate, this would provide $16.6 million to $33.2 million to the vaccine manufacturers.

Backers of the bill say it will help contain the spread of human papillomavirus strains which can cause deadly cervical cancer in women. They say waiving the consent requirements will help vaccinate homeless youth and young people unable or reluctant to obtain parental consent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year in the U.S. and almost all cases are HPV-associated. The virus may also cause several thousand other U.S. cancer cases each year.

Opponents of the vaccine say that it is unlikely that minors will complete the three-part vaccination process without parental guidance, even though the bill allows minors as young as 12 years old to consent to the shots.

“Most young people are not going to be seeking out independent medical vaccinations on a complex medicine like this. We’re thinking they’re going to be steered to it by adults,” Snider said.

He also reported that there is significant controversy in the medical community about 12-year-olds’ ability to understand the medical and moral implications of the vaccine.

“Parents have the primary responsibility for kids for medical decisions,” he said. “This bill basically puts them out of the loop.”

Opponents of the bill are asking California residents to tell Gov. Brown to veto the bill.

“It is time for parents and anyone who cares about the welfare of California’s children to mobilize,” Catholics for the Common Good chairman William B. May said on Aug. 25. “It is bad healthcare policy and an attack on the rights of parents and the rights of children to have the protection and guidance of their parents.”

Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles said he was praying for the veto. He cited children’s “fundamental” rights to parental guidance and parents’ “fundamental” right and duty to be responsible for their children’s physical and spiritual well being.

“Our children need the knowledge and wisdom of their parents in order to make complicated medical decisions. This legislation would leave our children to make these decisions without the benefit of their parents’ wisdom,” he said Sept. 6.

Disallowing parents’ involvement, he warned, could lead to pressure on children from “parties who may not have our best interests in mind” and who may have “financial or other motivations” to encourage vaccination.

“Let us all pray and work to build a society that encourages family values and strengthens the bonds of parents and children,” the archbishop said.

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