Wednesday, August 17, 2011

HPV Vaccine: A Political Choice?

Looooongggg time since I've posted, but I saw a tweet today that someone indicated they had opted out of the HPV vaccine for their daughter and that it shouldn't even be a law. I thought about responding to this person, whom I respect and mostly agree with politically, but realized I couldn't do justice in just a few characters.

This is an issue that should never have been politicized. I am pro-life and I believe that young folks should abstain from sex prior to marriage. However, I am just as much in favor of having my child vaccinated against every infectious agent possible in this day and age. Yes, HPV is transmitted sexually. However, many cases of cervical cancer have been linked to HPV and is the reason the vaccine was developed. It is just downright silly for parents to have such hubris as to believe that their children will adhere to their values without fail throughout their teenage years. You know, those years where they have raging hormones and just do not consider the consequences before they do something. They can still be "good" kids and they get swept up in the moment and make a mistake. Hopefully, that will never happen, but you want to leave your child unprotected in order to make a false political point?? I simply do not believe that their vaccination status will either prevent them from having sex or encourage them to do so. There are other diseases that can be transmitted sexually as well that are much more dangerous than HPV and this hasn't stopped teenagers from having sex, so their vaccination status is unlikely to be an influencer one way or the other.

This is a public health issue NOT a "government is taking over parenting" issue. The government doesn't have an interest in promoting early sexual activity, it does have an interest in preventing disease. In fact, for those interested in government reducing spending, this is a very simple preventative step that will reduce future health care costs as cervical cancer rates drop and the expensive treatments necessary to treat this disease are also reduced. This is not the same as the school offering condoms or sexual education, this is a vaccine against an infectious agent. To deny your child this protection just make a point against "government control" is not just a false choice but could be deadly to your child in the right (or wrong) circumstances.

We need to recognize that despite all efforts either parental or governmental, sexual activity will occur, even amongst good kids. Putting your head in the sand and getting all snooty about your "parental rights" isn't going to change that. If you have parented in accordance with your values, then why would a vaccination status influence your teen daughter's decision whether or not to have sex? They'll probably have forgotten that they've even had the vaccine or even what it was for by the time they get to the point of making the decision whether to "go all the way" with their boyfriend. In fact, they likely will not be thinking at all if it gets to that point.

In another circumstance, suppose they get raped? They would have no choice in that at all, but they would be at real risk of contracting HPV and potentially cervical cancer years later because of a political position. HPV is much more common than HIV so this is a real risk. Is there anything more tragic?

With many diseases for which vaccines are available, opting out could endanger many other people if enough parents choose to do this. In this instance, the only person you are endangering is your own child. Is a political point worth putting your child at risk many years down the road because they may have made a stupid decision or had the misfortune to be raped?

I hope that all who read this consider these points carefully and put your politics and ego aside before deciding to opt your daughter out of a vaccine that could ultimately save their life.