DC Statehood Greens urge delay, hearings on bill mandating HPV vaccination
The DC Statehood Green Party
Thursday, March 8, 2007
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- DC Statehood Green Party leaders are asking D.C. Council to delay voting on a bill that would require girls to receive a vaccine promoted by Merck, which is promoting the vaccine for the prevention of cervical cancer.
"Council should take no action on this legislation until a number of important questions about the HPV [Human Papilloma Virus] vaccine have been answered," said Mai Abdul-Rahman, candidat for the D.C. Board of Education in District 2 (Wards 3 and 4). "Until then, the bill is an expensive giveaway to Merck that places young women in D.C. at risk."
"We urge Council to hold public hearings on the HPV vaccine legislation, to seek a range of opinion from public health experts and advocates, and to hold off on a vote at least until the Wards 4 and 7 seats on Council are filled in the May 1 special election," added Statehood Green Party member Erica Madrid.
The legislation, B17-0030 "The HPV Vaccination and Reporting Act of 2007" <http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/images/00001/20070126124422.pdf>, would mandate "that the parent or legal guardian of a female child enrolling in grade 6 for the first time submit certification that the child has received the HPV vaccine." The bill is currently in Council's Health Committee, led by Council member David Catania; Mayor Adrian Fenty supports it.
"I am a mother," said Mary Pat Rowan of Brookland, D.C. "And I insist on my right to consult with my husband and my child and our doctor to decide whether and when to have the HPV vaccine administered. If I decide to wait for better data on safety; if I decide that the sixth grade is not the appropriate time for this vaccination; if I cannot in good conscience trust Merck or Big Pharma with my daughter's well-being, that's the end of it. The Council has no place intruding into my family's decisions about such intimate issues."
Statehood Greens cited several concerns about the bill:
. Since the vaccine is still in the experimental phase, the required vaccination puts D.C. girls at risk by making them laboratory subjects.
. The bill doesn't include a clear 'opt-out' provision for parents who don't want their daughters to receive a vaccine whose effectiveness remains in question.
. Local public health advocates have questioned the compensation available to D.C. residents in the event of adverse effects from the vaccine.
. The vaccine is more expensive and less effective in preventing cervical cancer than regular pap smears and condom use; Merck itself has acknowledged that the pap test has already led to the decline of cervical cancer.
. The vaccine has been aggressively advertised as Gardasil and is manufactured by Merck Pharmaceutical Co., which as lone distributor under the proposed legislation stands to make huge profits from its use. Merck is also the maker of the infamous painkiller Vioxx, which was pulled off the market after it was shown to increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Merck faces 27,000 lawsuits resulting from the use of Vioxx, and was ranked among the top 10 worst U.S. companies in 2004 by the Multinational Monitor because of its role in the Vioxx scandal <http://multinationalmonitor.org/mm2004/122004/mokhiber.html>. Merck has also been ordered to pay billions in back taxes in the wake of tax evasion charges: the firm has swindled the U.S. for billions of dollars and falsified IRS tax documents.
. Like Vioxx, the HPV vaccine has not been thoroughly tested. The drug was tested on 500 women over the age of 18, not on 6th grade girls, and the tests were conducted by Merck itself instead of an impartial scientific body. No data has been published showing effectiveness of the vaccine for viral strains prevalent in D.C. or for women of different ethnicities, a major concern for a city with an African-American majority.
. Public health advocates have asked how much influence Merck has had in the drafting and introduction of the legislation in D.C. Council; according to the D.C. Office of Campaign Finance. Pharmaceutical firms, including Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), have donated extensively to the 2006 campaigns of several Council members, as well as the Fenty campaign <http://ocf.dc.gov/index.shtm>.
"Questions about the HPV vaccine to answer before it becomes mandatory" Testimony by Asantewaa Nkrumah-Ture before D.C. Council City Desk, The Progressive Review, February 9, 2007 http://prorev.com/2007/02/questions-about-hpv-vaccine-to-answer.htm
"Texas to acquire poorly tested vaccine" City Desk, The Progressive Review, February 5, 2007 http://prorev.com/2007/02/texas-to-require-poorly-tested-vaccine.htm