If Toni Atkins is successful in pushing through her proposed AB 499, preteens as young as 12 could consent to receiving the Gardasil vaccine -- without parental notification. Medical professionals are on board. Parents cry foul. Should they?
Introducing AB 499
California Assembly Member Atkins proposes AB 499 as a means to allow preteens as young as 12 to receive "medical care related to the prevention of a sexually transmitted disease." In plain English, this measure opens the door to Gardasil vaccinations for middle-schoolers without parental consent or input. To sweeten the deal, Atkins lets parents off the hook when it comes to paying for the treatment: "The minor's parents or guardian are not liable for payment for medical care provided."
What's it gonna cost?
The bill analysis, provided by the California State Senate Appropriations Committee, shows that there are major taxpayer expenditures attached to the measure. Not surprisingly, the bill is currently placed into the suspense file, where it will languish until Assembly Member Atkins finds a way to make the legislation more palatable to taxpayers.
Using 2010 Medi-Cal figures, the Committee estimates that approximately 923,000 youngsters will qualify for Gardasil vaccinations under the legislation. Even if only between five percent and 10 percent of preteens and teens would give their consent to the shorts, administrative costs alone might fall between $1.2 million to $2.5 million. These figures do not account for the 870,000 California children who fall under the umbrella of the Healthy Families Program or the privately insured preteens and teens.
Who is for the Bill; who opposes it? Why?
The third reading of CA AB 499 shows that verified support -- as of June 15 -- comes from the ACLU, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Kaiser Permanente, the National Council of Jewish Women, Planned Parenthood, the National Association of Social Workers, the California Medical Association and others. Opposition to the law is largely faith-based.
Arguments in favor of preteen Gardasil shots (without parental consent) mention the time-critical nature of vaccine administration. Organizations point out that the "prevention of communicable disease is a primary goal of public health;" it stands to reason that parental consent is therefore secondary. Proponents also cite the potential for toxic or dysfunctional family relationships, which make it difficult -- if not impossible -- for minors to receive parental consent for the vaccine.
Opponents point out that these dysfunctional patterns are not the norm but the exception. Thus, it sets dangerous precedent to legislate from a vantage point that only affects a small number of minors. In addition, the opponents of the Gardasil vaccine point out that the shots are not totally safe.
What could go wrong?
As reported back on the Y!CN in 2009, Gardasil deaths are not unheard of. Back then, out of 24 million doses, 13,758 resulted in side effects. Seven percent of the latter were so severe as to be life-threatening, disabling or life-ending. Updated 2011 figures from the Centers for Disease Control show that by now 35 million doses have been dispensed and 18,727 reports of side effects were received. Eight percent of the side effects are serious, requiring hospitalization. There are 68 reported deaths of vaccine recipients, although the causality between Gardasil immunization and loss of life is not confirmed.
By the way, how does Atkins explain the substantial campaign contributions from health professionals and pharmaceutical companies to constituents, who might be a tat cynical about her record? Map Light shows that the California Medical Association and other backers of the bill are some of her biggest contributors.
Sylvia Cochran is a Los Angeles area resident with a firm finger on the pulse of California politics. Talk radio junkie, community volunteer and politically independent, she scrutinizes the good and the bad from both sides of the political aisle.
- Toni Atkins
- Gardasil vaccine
- California Assembly Member Atkins
- Gardasil vaccine