Last week, the federal Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended adding a new vaccine, Gardasil, to the standard immunization schedule for 11 and 12 year old girls. Gardasil immunizes against several strands of the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV), which causes genital warts and cervical cancer.
As Rivka at Respectful of Otters explained, the conservative groups that had initially responded to the prospect of such a vaccine in a hysterical snit ("How are we going to stop people from having sex if we can't threaten them with deadly disease?" -- no that's not a literal quote, but the real ones aren't far off), have moderated their message, and are now saying that they're glad the vaccine is available, but it shouldn't be mandatory. This change is rhetoric seems to have been effective: the NYTimes says that "a few religious groups have expressed mild reservations about the vaccine." But Rivka argues that there will always be exceptions available for religious objectors, and if the vaccine isn't made mandatory, states may not pay for it.
If I understand the issue correctly, assuming that HHS accepts the ACIP recommendations, the new vaccine will be covered under Medicaid and the federal Vaccines for Children program. So really poor kids should get it (as long as they have access to the documents to prove their citizenship, but that's a topic for another day). And most private insurance will cover it as well. The problem is the state programs that provide vaccines for kids who aren't poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, but don't have insurance. Gardasil is expensive -- $120 per shot, with a series of three shots required -- and covering it would nearly double the cost of some states' immunization programs.
However, on the parenting lists that I'm on, most of the discussion has been from parents who aren't sure that they want to give their daughters a new vaccine, especially if they're not sexually active. I'm not going to quote anyone without permission, but what I've been hearing is pretty similar to the parents quoted in this article about the vaccine. My kids are way too young, and the wrong gender (although eventually Gardasil or another similar vaccine is likely to be available for boys and men as well), so it's not a decision I'm personally facing. But I tend to be pretty pro-vaccine in general.
I saw a poster on the metro over the weekend, seeking healthy volunteers to participate in clinical trials for a malaria vaccine. I don't remember the URL and google has failed me in digging it up, but I'm going to look for the poster again. Obviously, I want to learn more about both the vaccine and the study protocol, but I'm seriously considering doing it.