The 2017 General Assembly session is picking up steam, and the movement against the HPV vaccine mandate in RI has not lost momentum. Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations has continued to rally support and to speak with legislators. Our efforts are paying off. Three bills have been submitted already for 2017 and a forth may come soon.
On this episode of “What’s Really In Your Best Interest?” I interview Aimee Gardiner, director of Rhode Islanders Against Mandated HPV Vaccinations, on the movement against the HPV Mandate in the Ocean State. Rhode Island parents deserve the freedom to make private family choices without government involvement. The mandate on the HPV vaccine for Rhode Island students is an important and symbolic violation of our rights.
Recently, the RI DOH undertook a marketing campaign directed at the children of our state. Do you think this is a proper use of taxpayer dollars? The government should include parents in the discussion when dealing with minors, not bypassing our families! This is a very disturbing trend. The #NOHPVmandateRI movement stands to reverse the HPV vaccine mandate in RI. Please watch the new videos of our interview now.
The latest news out of the Rhode Island government-media spin machine is that “HPV vaccination rate ‘extremely encouraging’,” as Richard Salit’s Providence Journal article puts it. The lede or secondary headline was: “First year vaccine is required for seventh graders.”
It’s enough to make a well-informed Rhode Islander scream at the computer, tablet, or dead-tree newspaper. Readers may recall that the HPV vaccine became controversial in Rhode Island because the state government presumed to make Rhode Island one of only two states to mandate inoculation against the sexually transmitted disease and the only one to do so by regulatory fiat.
Here’s the “extremely encouraging” news:
As of Sept. 1, with data compiled on 85 percent of the seventh graders in public and private schools, 72.5 percent had received at least the first in a series of three recommended doses of HPV vaccine.
That’s pretty good, right? Vindication for the mandate? Not really. Read a bit farther and do some math:
Because it’s a new mandate, the only previous Rhode Island statistic to compare that to is one from 2014 from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It estimated that, among those ages 13 to 17, 76 percent of girls and 69 percent of boys had the first dose of the HPV vaccine.
Average those two percentages, and you get… 72.5%. Public school enrollment data for the 2014-2015 school year shows that there are more boys, so the overall percentage based on the two numbers given would be 72.3%, but the percentages themselves are rounded, and private schools may very well shift the balance back toward equal numbers.
In other words, the government diktat that all students must put this drug in their body changed the vaccination rate almost not at all. It did, however, create a new precedent for the bureaucracy’s little dictators. On the positive side, it may have sparked some enduring backlash and eroded confidence in the government, inasmuch as the number of religious exemptions for vaccines jumped from “about half a percent for the 2014-15 school year to 4.47 percent for 2015-16 year.”
Any push-back against the state government in Rhode Island is good news, as far as I’m concerned, especially when the local news media tends to simply pass along the government’s spin.
Following the money around the Rhode Island Dept. of Health’s decision to require all Rhode Island seventh graders to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease reveals the big-money game of politics and government health.
Some families don’t believe that the fact that their children go to school with other children gives the government the right to force them to take drugs related to sexually transmitted diseases. Many become more suspicious when they hear of terrible side effects that some appear to experience and observe the overlapping financial interests of state government and company behind the drug.
Mind you: If the government simply recommended the drug, there would be no problem. But as it is, dedicated families feel the need to become activists and testify in pursuit of legislation to return their freedom. On the other end are bureaucrats whose social concern is difficult to entangle from the pursuit of metrics:
Among her arguments against the “personal belief” exemption that some lawmakers are seeking: “The proposed legislation, if enacted, will potentially decrease our state’s vaccination coverage rates, putting people at risk … [especially] those who cannot be vaccinated″ for medical reasons. …
In one letter to the lawmakers, [Director of Health Nicole] Alexander-Scott wrote: “Most vaccine-preventable diseases are transmitted from person to person. When a sufficiently large proportion of individuals in a community are immunized, those persons serve as a protective barrier against transmission of the disease in the community thus indirectly protecting those who are not immunized … This phenomenon is referred to as ‘herd immunity.’”
Good of the government to have such concern about the “herd.” One doubts that Alexander-Scott highlighted the fact that Rhode Island’s HPV vaccination rate was already high, and that the mandate increased it almost not at all.
That is, acting of their own free will — not as herded cattle — Rhode Islanders were already doing what the government wanted. Knowing that, one can reasonably infer that making us do things is the point, establishing the principle that we have to go where they think we should.
This should be an uncontroversial story offering the latest in medical thinking on a vaccine:
Since the HPV vaccine went on sale a decade ago, three doses have been needed. The panel decided Wednesday that two doses are enough.
“It will be simpler now for parents to get their kids the HPV vaccine series, and protect their kids from HPV cancers,” said Dr. Nancy Messonnier of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As readers of the Current know, Rhode Island responded (arguably) more strongly than any state in the country to the nationwide push to mandate that all students receive this vaccine — which is produced by a single company — as a condition of attending school. That nationwide push makes one think it awfully convenient that the government would recommend 50% more shots than it now says is necessary.
On the other hand, with ObamaCare, government is increasingly (and disastrously) involved in handling payments for health care, and excess vaccines may not make the cut as it balances its desire to make people pay for other people’s services with the voting-and-campaign-donating payers’ willingness to sit idly by as their wallets are raided. With premiums continuing to rise, and the government positioned to take the blame, spending isn’t all fun and games.
Obviously, these two dynamics are not mutually exclusive. The government may have loved the idea of prodding consumers toward excessive utilization of a monopoly drug while it wasn’t so directly visible in the funding stream, but is now reevaluating the corporate cronyism in light of its own accountability.
So if we take away the government’s incentive to meddle, what would be the recommended dosage of this vaccine? Unfortunately, the question points to the most profound reason to resist society-by-government. Who knows? The same entity we’re supposed to trust to give us an analysis of the data is in bed with those who profit from higher recommendations and on the hook if the prices get too high.
Somewhere in this great muddle of health care policy, there’s the intention that government agencies could be objective voices coming to conclusions on the basis of medical science and leaving the market to work out the consequences and individuals to make decisions about resulting priorities. Trust in that intention has now reached the point of naiveté, and we’ll all be poorer and less healthy for it as long as we allow it to continue.
Sarah Westwood sketches in some of the details of what many see as the pay-to-play scheme involving the overlapping activities of the Clinton Foundation and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (via Stephen Green):
The confusing structure can make tracing the precise destination of donations to the foundation a difficult task. However, donor records show major pharmaceutical firms — including Pfizer, Merck & Co., and Sanofi — have written generous checks to the Clinton Foundation. …
During Clinton’s first year at the agency, Merck lobbied the State Department to ease regulations restricting the distribution of its drugs “in certain Latin American markets,” according to lobbying disclosure forms from 2009. That placed the drug company’s international interests squarely on Clinton’s desk. …
As a senator, Clinton had reportedly written a letter urging the Department of Health and Human Services to approve Merck’s human papillomavirus vaccine in 2005.
By 2011, under her purview at the State Department, the U.S. government had teamed up with Merck to provide that same HPV vaccine to women in Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. The initiative was set to cost $75 million.
Merck, of course, is the company that produces Gardasil, the vaccine for HPV (which cannot be transmitted in any ordinary school activity) that the state of Rhode Island has mandated for all girls and boys entering seventh grade in a public or private school and for which the state’s Dept. of Health is actively advertising with mailers and robocalls.
Like Hillary Clinton’s misdeeds, however, these connections and the strange enthusiasm of government officials for specific drugs that push the boundaries of their purview are not high on the list of mainstream journalists. We all might chuckle that the federal government has apparently been pushing dental floss for over 30 years without any scientific basis (but much corporate enthusiasm, no doubt), but it isn’t enough simply to shrug and assume that this is how things work. It shouldn’t be.
Imagine additional tests find that the HPV vaccine leads to some major long-term side effect that was somehow not discovered during trials. The manufacturer would be targeted for lawsuits, to be sure, but what about the state government in Rhode Island, which has made it mandatory? I think affected Rhode Islanders would get a nice big “oops” from their appointed rulers, if that.
As Shikha Dalmia writes in The Week, families in Flint, Michigan, had the similar misfortune of being harmed by a government entity, rather than a private company:
GM had to pony up $35 million to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration) and $900 million to the Justice Department in penalties for the faulty switch in its 2005 Cobalt that was linked to 125 deaths and 250 injuries. What’s more, despite the totally deplorable liability shield or immunity from personal injury lawsuits the automaker received from the Obama administration as part of its 2009 bankruptcy restructuring, it still paid $625 million in compensation to the victims. And of course it recalled and fixed all the 2.6 million affected vehicles. All in all, it was down $1.5 billion.
But Toyota coughed up more than double that amount for its suddenly accelerating vehicles that resulted in 12 deaths and 31 accidents. It paid $1.2 billion in fines to Justice and $35 million to NHTSA and fixed all the vehicles, of course. In addition, it made an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed amount that was likely more than what GM paid to each victim. But the real kicker is that, because it did not have GM’s liability shield, it also paid $1.6 billion to all Toyota owners for the loss of the resale value of their cars.
Compare all of that to the $115 million or so that Flint victims will receive!
The main reason that they don’t have a prayer of collecting much more is something called the doctrine of sovereign immunity. Under this doctrine, citizens are barred from suing their government for screw-ups that it has caused in the course of discharging a core function unless the government itself consents. Some very narrow exceptions exist but it is very difficult to make them stick.
The longer one pays attention, the more difficult one finds it to understand why people would want government to be involved in more and more aspects of our lives. Why those who want to do things might look to do them through government is easy to understand. They merely have to convince a small group of politicians rather than a large number of customers, they gain access to government’s ability to regulate burdens on their competition, and they offload risk, whether that means financial risk (as with 38 Studios) or liability risk.
But everybody else loses out on the deal when government’s involved.
Vaccines and other drugs are among the products for which informed decisions have to be made, with drawbacks and risks to go along with the benefits. Given both financial incentive and simple human imperfection, those informed decisions have to be made on a shifting ground in which the most-informed experts are apt to change their recommendations. Caffeinated coffee, for example, is one product in which a general notion that it’s an unhealthy vice has more or less been reversed, but examples are sufficiently plentiful that readers can pick their own favorites.
Now, the American College of Pediatricians is warning that the risks of the Gardasil vaccine against human papillomavirus (HPV) have been insufficiently understood, making the vaccine more dangerous than previously thought:
Many adolescent females are vaccinated with influenza, meningococcal, and tetanus vaccines without getting Gardasil®, and yet only 5.6% of reports related to ovarian dysfunction since 2006 are associated with such vaccines in the absence of simultaneous Gardasil® administration. The overwhelming majority (76%) of VAERS reports since 2006 with ovarian failure, premature menopause, and/or amenorrhea are associated solely with Gardasil®. When VAERS reports since 2006 are restricted to cases in which amenorrhea occurred for at least 4 months and is not associated with other known causes like polycystic ovary syndrome or pregnancy, 86/89 cases are associated with Gardasil®, 3/89 with CervarixTM, and 0/89 with other vaccines administered independently of an HPV vaccine.5 Using the same criteria, there are only 7 reports of amenorrhea from 1990 through 2005 and no more than 2 of those associated with any one vaccine type.
The warning does note that the affliction remains rare and that studies are underway to develop a better understanding of any risks, but the College emphasizes that results could take years to develop and, in the meantime, physicians, parents, and patients should be aware of the matter before making any decisions.
In consultation with their own doctors, parents and their children may decide that the benefits of the vaccine are worth the risks and unknowns, but in this context, it’s worth remembering that the state government of Rhode Island has mandated the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys in their early teenage years. Moreover, the state did so through bureaucratic fiat, without the involvement of elected legislators in the General Assembly. That is, the State of Rhode Island has injected itself into the educated decision that families must make about this drug by requiring any family that declines to take the risk to register a religious exemption with the state.
A Rhode Island conservative can only be grateful, I suppose, that PolitiFact RI — the long-standing shame of the Providence Journal — managed to get the word “true” somewhere in its rating of the following statement from the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity:
Rhode Island will become just the second state to mandate the vaccine … and the only state to do so by regulatory fiat, without public debate, and without consideration from the elected representatives of the people.
The brief summary under the “Truth-o-meter” reading “Half True” on PolitiFact RI’s main page emphasizes: “Pretty flexible for a despot.” That’s a reference to the most weaselly part of Mark Reynolds’s quote-unquote analysis, which reads as follows:
[CEO Mike] Stenhouse labels the policies in Virginia and Rhode Island as mandates. But Jason L. Schwartz, an assistant professor at the Yale University School of Public Health, says you can’t call policies with such liberal exemptions mandates.
At best, this is an example of the frequent PolitiFact tactic of finding somebody whose opinion the writer prefers and treating that as the authoritative fact. One wonders, though, what rating PolitiFact RI would give its own newspaper. On July 29, the day before the Center released its press release with the challenged statement, the Providence Journal ran this headline at the very top of its front page: “Rhode Island to mandate HPV vaccine for 7th graders.” (Note: The online version adds the word “all” before “7th.”) The article itself uses the word “mandatory” five times.
Lesson learned, I guess: Never trust the headlines or reporting of the Providence Journal.
As for the PolitiFact rating, there are three relevant premises:
- Rhode Island is only the second state to require the HPV vaccine for students. Even PolitiFact admits this is true.
- The requirement is a mandate. This is so true that the supposedly objective journalists at PolitiFact RI’s home paper ran it in the most prominent spot on the paper.
- The mandate was implemented without public debate. PolitiFact’s evidence of “public debate” is that the professional activists at the ACLU managed to send in a written objection and post about it on Facebook. Well, then.
The fact that PolitiFact considers the awareness of the ACLU to be “public debate” — as opposed to hearings and a floor debate by the public’s elected representatives — is one of two highly disturbing aspects of Reynolds’s essay. The other is the latitude that it gives to government officials to adjust the truth to suit their needs. Days after the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity helped drum up actual public debate and concern about the HPV mandate, the Dept. of Health came forward to assert that the exemptions are so broad that its mandates should really be considered something more like suggestions.
The Providence Journal should end this fraudulent, government-propaganda feature. It distorts public awareness and undermines the political process.
As one analyzes Rhode Island government, it becomes clearer and clearer that the basic problem is ultimately one of political philosophy. Granted, the political philosophy of Rhode Island conveniently serves those who have a personal interest in government power, but what I’m suggesting is that special deals and tyranny aren’t entirely imposed on an unwilling public. The corruption has filtered into the culture.
One particular strain of this corruption is visible in the controversy over the Department of Health’s unilateral bureaucratic mandate that all children going into the seventh grade (boys or girls; public or private school) must be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease. Consider this, from Linda Borg in the Providence Journal:
In the first of several public information forums, Dr. Nicole Alexander-Scott, director of the Department of Health, emphasized that no one wants children to miss school and said her office wants to work with parents who have “strong feelings” about the vaccine. She said the vaccine is mandatory because the state wants to reach as many students as possible, noting that Rhode Island already has the highest rate in the country for vaccinating youths against HPV.
Forcing people to put drugs into their children’s bodies just because the “state wants to reach” them is entirely inappropriate. This begins to approach Brave New World levels of inappropriateness, wherein there are no parents, really, and school is just the government’s way of molding people into the kind of citizens whom the government wants them to be.
Most importantly, note the complete inversion of the appropriate relation of families to the government: The government has no strong feelings about the vaccine — as evidenced by the fact that it didn’t bother to go through a rigorous process of persuading the people’s representatives — but for parents to push back on it, they must have strong feelings. The default is what the government wants.
Jane Dennison, a Barrington pediatrician (who no doubt offers vaccines as a profitable product to her patients), sides with the government, saying, “The health department is not trying to cram this down your throats,” but it clearly is. They’re coming at us with a fist full of it, and only those who push back avoid having it thrust upon them.
My family may or may not go forward with HPV vaccines, but I’ve already filled out the exemption forms. We have to push back on these infringements on our rights.
Reviewers of legislation for the RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity’s annual Freedom Index had some mild disagreement about H6210, which passed the Rhode Island House but didn’t make it over to the state Senate before the end of the session. Basically, the bill would have given restaurants with outdoor tables some flexibility to allow patrons to have leashed dogs with them.
The negative view of the bill begins with the (appropriate) belief that it is ludicrous for the government to be getting involved with this question at all. On the other hand, the positive reviewers assumed that this was a legislative attempt to return some freedom to Rhode Islanders, providing relief from rules already on the books.
It turns out that the assumption is correct. Regulation 6-501.115(A) of the state Dept. of Health’s “Food Code” is the culprit:
Except as specified in (B) and (C) of this section, live animals may not be allowed on the PREMISES of a FOOD ESTABLISHMENT.
The exceptions are edible or decorative fish, patrol dogs, security dogs in outside fenced areas, service animals, and pets in institutional care facilities. Arguably, the additional relief that the House bill sponsors sought to provide was so narrow and minimal that it didn’t justify inclusion on the index at all, but lovers of freedom in Rhode Island have to take whatever hints of light they can get.
Upon consideration, the bill actually raises an indictment of the depths to which we’ve allowed our government to sink. Apparently, the process for law is for regulators to issue decrees, and people can appeal to the legislature for relief on specific grievances. That’s more like a parliamentary monarchy, or something, whereby the emperor pronounces rules, but people can go to the parliament (or senate) to argue for mild relief. That is, the representative aspect is effectively secondary.
In June, I noted a similar encroachment when it comes to the bureaucracy-decreed mandate for all seventh graders to be vaccinated against the sexually transmitted HPV disease. In that case, it appears that Rhode Island is one of only two states to mandate the vaccine, and the other, Virginia, did so by legislation, not by bureaucratic fiat.
What legislators ought to begin doing — and what Rhode Islanders ought to begin demanding that they do — is going through the Rhode Island General Laws and tightening whatever language it is that allows unelected agencies to assume the authority to issue such edicts. The basic assumption is that experts in the government have a need, and the right, to comb through our society searching for anything that might cause harm to anybody and implementing rules to protect us from ourselves.
If we don’t demand that such a bureaucracy be pulled back, then we can’t claim to be a society that values independence and freedom.
Barack Obama, channeling decades of theory, says constantly that the traditional system has failed. He said it in his 2011 Osawatomie, Kan., speech: “It doesn’t work. It has never worked.” He has attacked Congress repeatedly as a failed institution, teeing it up for mass revulsion just as he did the 1%.
With Congress rendered moribund, the new branch of the American political system is the federal enforcement bureaucracy. The Department of Health and Human Services’ auto-revisions of the Affordable Care Act are the most famous expressions of the new governing philosophy. But historians of the new system will cite the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights’ 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter on sexual harassment as the watershed event.
I’m currently going through all of the legislation on the table in the General Assembly, and two observations stand out (as usual):
- Our elected officials really do believe that it is their role to micromanage life in this state.
- As bad as that is, worse still is the latitude that they are increasingly giving to appointed bureaucrats to do the same.
An example that I’ve heard from multiple directions, lately, is the still-new mandate that all seventh grade students (public or private school) must be vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV) — a sexually transmitted disease. This isn’t like the flu or chickenpox, which students can catch and spread simply by attending school. The Dept. of Health has crossed into a new territory of rationale, assuming the authority to instruct parents to put a drug in their children based on studies of long-term health risks, rather than immediate danger.
The bureaucracy has done so with the permission of extremely broad legislation, which states that students are required to show proof that they have “been immunized against any diseases that may from time to time be prescribed by regulation of the director of health.” There is a religious exemption form, but that only mitigates the reality that freedom has been flipped. Instead of the government attempting to persuade parents to make a particular decision, they’re requiring parents to actively notify the government of their decision in the other direction.
Charles Murray’s notion that Americans need to begin a regimen of deliberate civil disobedience against the bureaucracy seems wiser by the day. There doesn’t appear to be anything about filling out the exemption form that precludes a parent from actually going forward with the vaccine, so it should become a matter of course among parents, and we should all look for other ways to thumb our nose at people who think they have authority over us, but shouldn’t.
The events in Ferguson, MO have drawn widespread public attention to the increasing militarization of local police departments. It’s a topic that has been discussed amongst civil–rights minded folks for the last decade or so and has both national and local impact.