Tuesday, October 9, 2007

'Round the Sphere: Mandatory Gardasil Vaccination Politics Make Strange Bedfellows

Are you for or against mandatory vaccination of school girls with Gardasil? Are you afraid to be against it and thus painted as a right-wing religious conservative!

There have been several posts within the Pharma Blogosphere today on this issue.

First up is PharmaGossip's post "Merck - Gardasil: fatal side effects?," which suggests a hint of doubt about the veracity or scientific merit of a report from "US public interest group" Judicial Watch regarding the release of documents that link Gardasil to as many as 11 deaths since its approval in the market. I only note that Jack Friday does not identify this group as a "conservative, non-partisan educational foundation."

Compared to Jack Friday, Ed Silverman over at Pharmalot is a flaming liberal -- at least when measured by his slant on this story. In his post, "Gardasil: Conservative Group Trumpets Side Effects", Ed starts right off questioning the mission of Judicial Watch by use of the phrase "bills itself as a conservative public interest group that 'advocates high standards of ethics and morality in our nation’s public life,'"

"This is, essentially, another front in the battle against Gardasil. By issuing such press releases, Judicial Watch not only caters to its core constituency - social conservatives who worry the HPV vaccine will be seen as a green light to premarital sex among teenagers - but also plays on the concerns of parents who are undecided whether to vaccine adolescent girls (Gardasil isn’t yet approved for teenage boys) and question mandated vaccination."
Ed thus categorizes opinions about mandatory vaccination as a battle front with religious conservatives on one side and everyone else on the other.

May I dare say that it is not as black and white as that?

In my post to Pharma Marketing Blog, "Gardasil: Is the Risk of Being "One Less" Worth It?," I see the evidence presented by Judicial Watch as a test case of the new pharmaceutical industry "balance benefits vs. risks" mantra.

After all, even Big Pharma CEOs like Lilly's Sidney Taurel are calling for better systems to "quickly identify both the true benefits and the full extent of risks associated with medicines in widespread use."

Presumably, physicians in consultation with patients represent the best way to determine whether a drug or vaccine is right for a particular patient based upon known risks vs. expected benefits. If Gardasil vaccination is mandatory, that kind of conversation with the physician is not an option. This goes against every liberal notion of "patient empowerment."

Therefore, I propose "patient empowerment" as the liberal battle cry and battle front against mandatory Gardasil vaccination!

BTW, I argued this point with the former blogger in charge at NRx before he left for journalism school. As of this writing, the current author of NRx has not written about this issue, but has instead posted important information about how easy it is to read gibberish and a YouTube video that is no longer available! Just so you know where the priorities are.

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