I’m Having A Hard Time With This One

I got worked up tonight on the Don Balfour issue at CPAC and I’m really having a hard time not passionately despising the man right now. I feel guilty because I’ve always liked him. He’s been a good conservative leader in the Georgia Senate.

I owe him an apology for that. It’s so rare for me to stew on an issue and yet I am on this one.

To be clear — I think parents should probably, in a few years, once all the major testing issues have been worked out, give their daughters this vaccine. But not right now while we don’t know the long term effects and there are still questions about the testing and drug trial protocols followed by Merck.

Why am I so embittered toward Don Balfour? It’s really easy.

The public policy professionals in this country are fairly unanimous that Don Balfour’s legislation is the wrong public policy measure to take. The American College of Pediatricians. The guy who chairs the CDC’s committee on national immunization policy. The American Medical Association. Even apparently, if you believe some polling data, your local pediatrician.

But we all know what Don Balfour did. Let’s not be shy about saying it.

He got wooed by a bunch of money slinging lobbyists who paid him off in one way or another to impose on your sixth grade daughter a public health mandate that is opposed by the major medical policy making leaders in this country.

That’s really a shitty thing to do, and I’m going to use that word on the front page.

I have nothing against lobbyists lobbying. But when it’s the product manufactures who are doing it and it involves the public well being of my child, Don Balfour should get his head out of his ass and pay attention to the people who are not financially invested in a monopoly pharmaceutical product.

I really am bitter about this and that’s certainly not a very Christian position for me to hold. I’m sorry that I do feel this way, but I can’t help seeing that here we have a drug that is probably worth me having my daughter take in a few years, but a medical community saying clearly and distinctly that we do not want to introduce this drug into the mandatory vaccination program of this nation because it does not meet the criteria by which we should be doing that.

Yet because some lobbyist sweet talked Don Balfour, he’s going to taint with lobbyist money a public healthcare policy that has largely been kept out of the mud. These decisions have historically been done based on medical community consensus for the good of the nation’s health — not done by passing campaign contributions to state senators to help a monopoly make some money before competition arrives on the scene.

That really bothers me. And for that, someone should run against Balfour in the 2008 GOP primary.

That kind of arrogance is unbecoming any person of either party in the legislature and it really is a shitty thing for him to be doing.

17 comments

  1. Mad Dog says:

    Erick,

    The information I’ve been gathering on this drug, Gardasil, is that it might prevent a certain STD thought to be caused by the HPV.

    That STD can become cervical cancer.

    My wife is a pediatric nurse. My son a cardiologist in Boston. They vote no to mandatory “vacinations.” The pediatricians also vote it down.

    If you would like some more information, I believe you have my email.

    Running down Balfour’s links to lobbyists might take some time.

    What are you going to do if you find strong linkages? File an ethics complaint and have Senator Eric Johnson toss it in the trash?

  2. bowersville says:

    Vic & BB have ran down some of the contributions to Balfour from the pharmaceutical types under other HPV/Balfour topics. BB also points out a conflict and Bill Simon writes “the ethics complaint will write itself.” Y’all remember BB from the R congressional primaries don’t you?

    Merck advertisement, Women’s Day, April 1, 2007.

    “GARDISIL is for girls and young women ages 9 to 26. This vaccine is part of your daughter’s recommended vaccination schedule, but only a doctor or healthcare professional can decide if GARDASIL is right for her.”

    “GARDISAL, may not fully protect everyone and does not prevent all types of cervical cancer…” GARDASIL.com, womansday.con

    Ask yourself, why is Balfour publicly ahead of Merck?

  3. BB says:

    One has to wonder why a Waffle House executive is taking the lead on this legislation.

    After speaking with pediatricians and other senators yesterday for a story we are doing on SB155, there is little to no support for this legislation. Merck even stopped its massive nationwide lobbying effort due to pressure applied by parents all over the country.

  4. DougieFresh says:

    Erick,

    Well stated and logical.

    Perhaps the failing is not in getting angry with the Senator, but in having faith in any politican. I have seen people who are otherwise considered “good men/women” do some very nasty things in order to score a political point. Maybe people who enter that line of work do not deserve respect in the first place.

  5. Bill Simon says:

    I think Erick has FINALLY caught the virus I’ve had for years in politics: The “I’m Fed-Up-&-I’m-Not-Going-To-Take-It-Anymore!” Virus.

    It IS contagious, Folks…except, it takes root in very few people that I have seen.

  6. Skeptical says:

    Erick,

    I personally don’t believe that you owe anyone an apology. Putting the health and well-being of young girls and women should always come before the love of a lobbyist’s money.

    For once, I am in complete agreement with you that it is simply too soon to tell if this is a worthwhile venture. I am for anything that will help save women’s lives – as long as it’s been properly tested. But when the established medical community is as united in their opposition to this measure as they are, I think the public should take note of it and force their “representatives” to act accordingly.

  7. Jeff Emanuel says:

    Perhaps the failing is not in getting angry with the Senator, but in having faith in any politican.

    Doug, I’ve been sharing a spot on that island with you for a while now. :-/

  8. DougieFresh says:

    Jeff-E,

    Well, I hope you brought something to eat, because I am starving.

    In the end, the fault lies squarely with the voter. If voters did not tolerate such behavior and if we held politicans of our own party (whichever that is) to higher standard than we held the members of the opposition, we would be much better off.

  9. DMZDave says:

    Recently my 11 year old daughter had a physical and the doctor suggested that Gardisil. My wife and I didn’t think it was necessary just now but neither of us questioned the doctor’s morals or became outraged that he may have been unduly influenced by a Merck sales rep.

    Often ,when it comes to a politician’s reasons for doing something, there really is less there than meets the eye. In fact with Senator Balfour, I would allow for the possibility that he may know someone who died of cervical cancer or that maybe he’s “pro-life” and truly believes that innocent lives could be saved. The one thing for certain is that by introducing the legislation, he has exponentially helped increased awareness of the vaccine and its potential affects, he has fostered a healthy debate and he has subjectedhimself to outrage and scorn for his efforts. Here’s a news flash, the scientists at Merck who developed this vaccine are the good guys. They studied hard in high school and college and probably work round the clock to make the world a safer place. Occasionally they get lucky and develop a vaccine that will indeed save lives. They won’t get rich either. It’s the shareholders and people like your friends and neighbors who hold Merck in their 401Ks that benefit. I’d even go so far as to venture the guess that most of the Merck lobbyists who advocate this vaccine do so because they know that hundreds and thousands of lives will be saved and they probably think that’s a good thing.

  10. Skeptical says:

    DMZDave, you give far too much credit to politicians. You and your wife were given the option by your child’s doctor. This bill seeks to make it mandatory with an option to opt-out.

    Would you rather force all young girls in this state to have to be vaccinated, assuming their parents or guardians don’t opt out for them or would you rather it be done as it was in your case, have your doctor suggest it to you, letting you and your wife decide the medical decisions that you deem best for your family?

    I thought conservatives and civil libertarians were for less government intrusion in personal decisions.

  11. fishplate says:

    Where are all the women carrying signs reading “Get Your Laws Off My Body!”? I figured they’d be right up front on this issue…

  12. DMZDave says:

    Skeptical: Since I didn’t opt for the vaccine for my own daughter, one might reasonably conclude that I don’t favor a bill making something madatory I do not choose to do voluntarily. That having been said, what this conservative favors is reasoned debate and what I oppose is engaging in knee-jerk condemnation of every politician’s motives simply because they challenge my personal ideology. I suggested and continue to suggest that although one may disagree with Senator Balfour’s legislation, one should not simply write him or his motivations off as unduly influenced by “evil” lobbyists or even, for that matter, write off the motivations of those lobbyists.

    I am old enough to remember the polio-afflicted kids in wheel chairs and leg braces in classes ahead of me in school and also recall at the time those who howled of “communist conspiracy” when the government made it mandatory to be vaccinated for polio. The desease was effectively erradicated and seemingly overnight. I’m prepared to accept that Senator Balfour probably has in mind similar positive outcomes. It really is possible to oppose his legislation without impugning his motives, his morals or the quality of his character. Seriously, you really can do that.

  13. Skeptical says:

    DMZDave, I don’t know the man so I will say that I completely oppose this as a privacy issue for women and what they want to do with their own bodies (I’m right here fishplate!). I do see this as another method of the government trying to control what women do with their own bodies (this time, the women just happen to be a bit younger). Choices affecting a person’s health should be left to that person and their doctor.

    I oppose this primarily because there hasn’t been sufficient time for proper testing. It may cure one type of cancer, but what if a side effect of this is that it brings about another type of cancer, say breast cancer? Do we trade one cancer for another simply because we were in such a hurry to save lives?

  14. mrssimmons says:

    I found this blog while crafting a letter to my Georgia senator asking him to oppose SB 155. I have many reasons for opposing it, the least of which are that the vaccine has only been tested for safety and efficacy on less that 1,500 girls in the age range this bill would impact.

    School is mandatory. Schools are places where diseases are easily transmitted. A school in Kennesaw just had to close its doors for a few days because of how many of its students and staff had contracted a stomach virus. We mandate that parents have to provide some form of education to their children and most opt to send them to school. If we did not also mandate that children be vaccinated against polio, rubella and TB, we would be forcing many parents to send their children to a disease-infested cesspool.

    Follow my logic so far?

    There is no school in Georgia that condones the kind of activities required to transmit HPV from one person to another. That alone is why this vaccine should not be mandatory. The way it is transmitted is not through any activity that would be occurring at school.

    In closing, I would like to submit a link to Merck’s 2005 political contributions. One could call it a coincidence that Don Balfour is only one of two Georgia senators who received a $500 contribution from Merck. Maybe it is as DMZDave says and Don Balfour’s heart is in the right place. Maybe Merck has a team of people researching vulnerable legislators and they only contribute to people who have some history that would make them sensitive to the “cause” of mandating the only approved vaccine against HPV.

    I find the simplest explanation to be that Merck has courted Don Balfour. Call me cynical.

    http://www.merck.com/about/public_policy/docs/2005_corporate_political_contributions.pdf

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