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A new cancer-fighting vaccine holds life-saving promise for young women, but debate over its use is raising tough questions at the crossroads of medicine and morality. This week, NOW investigates the controversy over Gardasil, a new vaccine developed by the pharmaceutical giant Merck that blocks certain high-risk strains of the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV) which cause 70 percent of cervical cancers. Just weeks ago, Texas Governor Rick Perry issued a controversial executive order requiring all girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated with Gardasil, with opt-out exceptions. Some 20 other states are considering similar action.
But many critics feel that mandating these vaccinations infringes on parental rights and may encourage risky sexual behavior among young people. Others argue that the rush to inoculation is too hasty, and that more medical review is required. Some also wonder if state government decisions were inappropriately prejudiced by Merck's powerful political influence. Under criticism, Merck suspended its lobbying efforts for the vaccination mandate this past Tuesday (February 20th).
NOW travels to Michigan, a flashpoint of the debate, to uncover more about the issue and discuss its human consequences with doctors, local politicians, and private citizens, including a young mother living with cervical cancer brought on by HPV.
"I think [critics of mandated vaccination] need to stop looking at it so much as a personal choice as it is saving someone you love from living what it takes to live with this disease," cervical cancer patient Sara Ylen told NOW. "You become a slave to it. You go through treatments that are painful...and that's not something you want to wish on anyone."
Interview: Seth Moulton, former Marine Lieutenant
David Brancaccio sits down with Seth Moulton, who served two tours in Iraq as a Marine Lieutenant, to talk about America's quandary in Iraq. Moulton argues President Bush's call for some 21,000 additional troops in Iraq is "too little, too late," and recommends a commitment of 100,000 more troops. "If it means that we have to have a draft, then that's a question we need to ask the Congress and the American public," Moulton said.