OK, let’s agree that the major drug companies are in it for the money. Or, if you prefer, that they’re blood-sucking capitalists.
Exactly like the makers of cars, gameboys, and everything else we wear, drive, eat, and use.
That agreed, the sudden vicious attack on Merck, maker of the HPV vaccine Gardisil, is a classic example of progressive people shooting, er, vaccine-ing themselves in the foot.
As we wrote last year, here’s a vaccine that could wipe out the majority of cervical cancer in our lifetime; all we’d have to do is vaccinate girls before they become sexually active. Sex-phobic groups like the Abstinence Clearinghouse and Family Research Council immediately jumped on this, glowering that it would:
1. increase ‘promiscuity’ (“c’mon Kevin, I can’t get cervical cancer–let’s do it!”), and
2. send the ‘wrong message.’ Yes, that awful message of “we care more about your health than about our obsessive need to deny that you’re a sexual being with an actual vagina.”
That was to be expected. Whereas reasonable people might think cancer is a public health problem, Concerned Women for America think sex is a much bigger public health problem. They lobbied against the vaccine’s release. And they lost.
But the drug is distributed by, er, a drug company. And so a group of otherwise progressive people are suspicious. They don’t like the high price (every drug starts this way), want a 100% guarantee that the drug won’t cause side effects in one single person (there is no such drug), want access to pharmaceutical company records, and are generally being a pain in the ass. The worst sin they see is that Merck has spent millions promoting the drug, creating groups to market it and lobby state legislatures to require it.
There’s a shock—a profit-making company spending money to shape the legislative environment in which it competes. As if that hasn’t been done with “green” cars, biodegradable diapers, and even the non-smokers’ movement—not to mention more traditional products like TVs, furniture, and pop-tarts. Tariffs or tax relief anyone?
The Religious Right is rubbing its hands in glee as so-called feminists, self-identified “health activists” and other anti-capitalists do the dirty work of undermining the sexual health of teenagers and adults. Now they can save their medieval “promiscuity” argument for the next advance in sexual health, education, or entertainment.
Meanwhile, the idea that Merck is in it for the money—the huge money—is good. It’s why they invented the drug, it’s why they were able to get the drug approved, and it’s how they could successfully lobby for its mandate in Texas, the country’s largest school system. You and I couldn’t have done it. What we can do is support efforts to make the vaccine mandatory in our own locale. Until capitalism is overthrown and everything is free, that is.