In recent years there has been controversy surrounding many vaccines, but for none has the uproar been so fierce as for the vaccine for human papillomavirus or HPV. The debate over HPV vaccine risks goes even deeper than other (equally ludicrous) stances over links to vaccines and developmental disabilities.
HPV is a virus, certain strains of which have been linked to 70 percent of cervical cancer patients. It can also cause period outbreaks of painful genital warts. Yet, this is not a virus that one catches in the air or by not washing his or her hands. No, HPV is a sexually-transmitted infection.
Essentially, the HPV vaccine prevents males from carrying and women from being infected by a virus that almost surely causes cancer. In fact, one would most likely think that everyone would be on the side of kicking cancer square in the teeth.
I’ve written before about how, especially for parents of younger children, the idea of them as eventually sexual beings is icky and typically avoided. We parents have to realize that this is our hang-up and take all the steps we can to ensure our children are protected from easily preventable dangers.
Of course in the hands of politicians and professional agitators, it becomes the government forcing children to be vaccinated against a disease only caught by “dirty” people. It’s astounding that this thinking does well in the 21st century, but these folks always find an audience.
The fact remains that while there have been cases where people vaccinated have suffered debilitating medical conditions after vaccination, the percentage of those cases falls within the statistical range of the public-at-large. HPV vaccine risks are the same as the risk of coming down with the disorder in general.
Even personalities as reputable as Katie Couric, admitted to focusing far too much on these statistically irrelevant cases than on any real substantive discussion about the vaccine. Because of the disproportionate coverage given to the controversy—at least the medical side of it—reasonable, rational parents who love their children are still wary of having them vaccinated.
There is no real danger to children, but with the faux anti-vaccine scare and the sexual implications, this was a perfect story for a media prone to sensationalizing whatever keeps people’s attention. It is important to get children vaccinated and luckily with the HPV vaccine there is some wiggle room about when that can happen.
Vaccinating your child against this disease is not giving tacit permission for them to become sexually active as has been suggested in the most scurrilous of reports. If parents choose to use this vaccination as an opportunity to start a larger discussion about what “growing up” really means, even better.
What do you think? Tell us in the comments below!