The HPV Vaccine and You

by d
Pathology: EM: Papilloma Virus (HPV) Electron ...

HPV. Image via Wikipedia

If someone came up to you, out walking with your young child, and said, “Hey there, I have a vaccine that will prevent your child from ever getting a black eye!” would you say, “How insulting! My child will NEVER have a black eye! I am raising him/her properly and they shall never get into any sort of a scuffle! We use our WORDS in this family!”

(This would, of course, be followed by an incident where your child has an accident that gets them not one, but two black eyes.)

Of course you wouldn’t say this. You would recognize that accidents happen, that even if your child is an angel other people are not, and that your little darling might have a moment of poor judgment at some point in the future. You might still refuse the vaccine, but you wouldn’t act as though this sales rep were trying to blacken the family name.

That’s why I don’t understand statements like this:

“I was greatly offended that Merck suggest I vaccinate my nine-year-old daughter against an STD,” says Kelley Watson, a mother of two in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. “Especially insulting to me was that there was never any mention of HPV as being a sexually transmitted disease. It was presented as something women can contract through tampons or nylon stockings — as if men played no part.”

Kelley, you know your daughters are going to have sex someday, right? Doesn’t it make sense to vaccinate them against STDs before they start having it?

Her second point is valid, and raises alarm bells. In fact, the whole article this quote comes from (HuffPo: HPV Vaccine: Would You Give Your Kids Gardasil and Cervarix Vaccines?) questions the motives behind the drug’s development and distribution. Now, this is the Huffington Post’s Health section, which likes to host ‘alternative’ voices, some of which are total bullshit. So don’t take everything this woman says as gospel. But, she raises questions that we should all want answers to before we decide to distribute this drug to anyone, never mind nine year old virgins.

I was in college when Gardasil hit the market. I was very happy about it, but also very wary. New vaccine that can prevent the spread of a ubiquitous disease AND help prevent cervical cancer? SCORE! But do I want to be part of the first round of guinea pigs to take the thing and only learn about the consequences later? No. So, although my college would’ve let me have it for a pittance, I didn’t get it.

There are still a lot of things about these HPV vaccines that we just don’t know. Like, what are the long-term effects? (Especially when given to pre-pubescents?) How long does prevention actually last? Will it wear off? How often does one need a booster shot? Are those any more or less effective than the initial round?

But we routinely give vaccines to children without a truly comprehensive understanding of the long-term effects. I was given the Hep B series of shots roughly fifteen years after it was developed. I don’t like knowing that factoid now. Then again, fifteen years is a great deal longer than five years.

I think one reason I am more cautious of the HPV vaccine is that it deals directly with our reproductive organs. What we think is going to protect them could end up harming them. I see this as a vulnerable part of our bodies. I don’t want it damaged unnecessarily. It would be too cruel to strip women of their fertility before they’ve even hit puberty. We should be the ones in control of whether or not we have children, not a greedy corporation try to make its shareholders happy.

How about you? Would you let a young girl take the vaccine while it’s still in its infancy?

One Comment to “The HPV Vaccine and You”

  1. I would not! :p And I wouldn’t get it, either, had I the choice. And, since I did have the choice, and still have the choice, I choose not to. I also choose not to take advantage of the H1N1 vaccine. Which is difficult, since they’ve now integrated it in with the regular seasonal flu vaccine. I just don’t trust anything that I don’t think has had a long enough time to be tested and researched.

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