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Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Merck Suspends Lobbying for HPV Vaccine to Become Law

What a great idea this was!!! When I first heard about this initiative, I heard it was being introduced by a Texas lawmaker. My first thought was an obvious case of rent seeking. Merck was the first to develop the vaccine, therefore, by requiring it to be law, Merck's sales would be through the roof. My immediate second thought was the implications on liberty and freedom. Could this law be Constitutionally correct?

When there is a public concern for health, such as the flu, which is transmitted by casual contact, then there can be a case for mandatory vaccines, even those subsidised by the government. However, in this instance, this is a vaccine for HPV which is contracted through sexual contact. This is immediately recognizable as a controllable type of disease- abstinence works best. There would be absolutely no instance for the government to force parents of girls, as young as 9, to get this vaccine. One of the arguments against this is that it could promote sexual activity among young girls. I think this follows the same logic as distributing condoms in public school.

I don't think it is the job of the state to police sexual activity of our children. It was wise for the government to prepare for the bird flu, but we did not get mandatory vaccines for it and, as it turns out, there have been few, if any, cases here in the U.S. (It just so happens that the market actually worked in getting the bird flu under control- economic pressure was put on states (et. China) to get control of the situation, otherwise business and commerce would stop coming to that part of the world). HPV can be prevented by abstinence, testing of partner, use of protection.

Since this was a blatant attempt by Merck to gain profits. it was wise for them to back down. No, if only the lawmakers can see their errors and back down as well.

It seems to me that the issue here should be considered, in the context of our course, in terms of whether or not the government action in question could possibly be a legitimate use of police power. I think you speak to this issue indirectly. Legitimate applications of police power in this policy area would involve "public health." Is this specific issue about "public" or "private?"

The issue also seems to involve rent seeking, but even so, the government's response could still be consistent with a proper definition of police power.

So, what do you think about this issue from the perspective of a proper definition of police power?
I think you should also ask if this policy issue involves a market failure? Perhaps this issue involves an externality?
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