Every Monday afternoon I pick up my 12 year-old son from school and the first thing out of his mouth is the new joke of the week that his teacher writes on the blackboard. Here’s his latest: “If you go sunbathing and bring a book with you, will you be well read? Get it, mom? Well red?” We share a chuckle and drive home talking about our busy days at school.
This conversation, while super corny to an outsider, I’m sure, is the perfect example of the mindset of a typical 12-year-old child.
Though he is growing up quickly, his days are still filled with jokes about bodily functions and Nerf wars with the neighborhood kids. The extent of his major decision-making process involves whether to spend his allowance on a Wii game or yet another Nerf gun that will out-blast Bobby’s. And this is why the idea of him making serious health decisions without my knowledge and consent is concerning, to say the least.
Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown approved AB 499, allowing children as young as 12 years old to get vaccinated against sexually transmitted infections such as human papillomavirus without parental consent. It’s a simultaneous slap in the face to parents and kickback for special interest groups.
Now, please don’t misunderstand me. I’m neither a religious zealot nor am I politically conservative, as proponents of this bill may have you believe. It bothers me parental consent isn’t a factor in AB 499, but not nearly as much as it infuriates me to know that state legislators, beholden to special interests, are using our children to line the pockets of multibillion dollar pharmaceutical companies.
A recent trend has sparked my curiosity. Who remembers the H1N1 (swine flu) outbreak of 2009? Remember how we were all going to die?
Right. So, we didn’t.
The World Health Organization, however, called it a global pandemic. They couldn’t help but strongly advocate a global vaccination effort against what was clearly going to cause us all to oink ourselves to death. In reality, swine flu was just another media-hyped health scare.
Then, last year, California experienced an outbreak of pertussis (whooping cough). State departments of public health urged the public to get vaccinated. Legislators even succeeded in passing a law that now mandates whooping cough inoculations for all incoming seventh graders.
However, after a four-month long investigation by a nonprofit news organization on the San Diego State campus, it was discovered that most cases of whooping cough were reported from people who had been vaccinated against it. Months later, this investigation led the Centers for Disease Control to admit that immunity is waning in the already administered, and now legally mandated, whooping cough vaccination. Along with University of California Los Angeles, the CDC began to test its effectiveness.
In other words, every seventh grader is getting a vaccination that may not even work.
So yes, we have issues involving efficacy of vaccines and legitimacy of epidemics. But why the recent cuddle fest between statutory law and vaccines? It hasn’t always been this way.
Let’s take a closer look at San Diego assemblywoman Toni Atkins who sponsored the HPV legislation and those who supported the bill.
According to Maplight.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization that provides citizens and journalists with transparency tools to shine light on the influence of money on politics, Atkins is quite cozy with the pharmaceutical industry. The California Medical Association, a professional organization representing California physicians, also makes a nice bedfellow.
During the past two years alone, the pharmaceutical industry has donated more than $10,000 to Atkins, including $1,000 from Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp, a subsidiary of Merck & Co. Inc., the pharmaceutical company that just so happens to make Gardasil, the primary HPV vaccine.
Atkins also received another $1,000 from GlaxoSmithKline, the pharmaceutical company that makes Cervarix, the other HPV vaccine.
It isn’t listed anywhere in Atkins’ bill that the author of the legislation has received donations from the very pharmaceutical companies that will directly benefit from it, but it should.
Now, if $10,000 isn’t enough to convince you, perhaps $112,100 is. That’s the amount the CMA donated throughout the past two years to Atkins and the 11 assemblymen who voted in favor of AB 499.
It’s also interesting to note that some of the assemblymen, who voted in favor of AB499 and received donations from CMA, also received donations from GlaxoSmithKline and Merck.
Specifically, GlaxoSmithKline donated to assemblymen Nathan Fletcher, Fiona Ma and Henry Perea. Merck donated to Fletcher, Ben Hueso and Richard Pan.
Why should we be concerned about a harmless group of doctors who like to throw their money around like guys at a strip club on all-you-can-eat cheeseburger night? Because they benefit in a couple of important ways.
First, Gardasil and Cervarix are not — pardon the pun — one shot deals. For the vaccines to work, three doses are required throughout a six month period. Doctors benefit from multiple office visits. Someone has to pay for those office visits and for the vaccination itself. Without parental knowledge and financial support, I doubt kids are going to spend their hard-earned allowance to get jabbed. My guess is that taxpayers are going to pay. Second, physicians also receive monetary incentives from insurance companies to vaccinate their patients.
Therefore, when you see the CMA supporting legislation, as they did with Atkins’ bill, and donating superfluous amounts of money to political campaigns, as they did with multiple politicians who voted in favor of AB 499, you must ask yourself what this bill is really about. It could be the noble intention of protecting our daughters from cervical cancer, or maybe just a guise to line the pockets of Big Pharma and keep our state legislators in their comfortable leather desk chairs.