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The premarital-sex non-argument against the HPV vaccine

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Sep. 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm with 2 Comments »
September 26, 2011 3:43 pm

This editorial will appear in Monday’s print edition.

Some perspective is needed on the controversy over the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that arose after a recent Republican presidential debate. The best way to do that is to take sex out of the equation.

Instead of preventing a sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cervical cancer in women and oral cancer in men, let’s say the HPV vaccine guarded against a fictional virus that caused breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Wouldn’t most parents jump at the chance to decrease the chances of their children contracting those potentially deadly cancers? Only the most hard-core anti-vaccine holdout would say no.

Which gets us back to the sex part of the HPV equation and why some otherwise rational people don’t think children should be inoculated against it. They oppose the HPV vaccine – Cervarix or Gardasil – because they fear that removing one of the consequences of premarital sex would encourage it.

It’s a weak argument. The fear of STDs and pregnancy hasn’t put much of a damper on teens having sex, so it’s hard to see why the chance of developing cancer several years down the road would slow them down. They also know that smoking can cause lung cancer, but many still do it.

Sometimes parents have to do things to protect kids from themselves – and teens from their hormones. Most young people will not wait until marriage to have sexual relations; parents who think not getting their children vaccinated against HPV will deter them from having sex are gambling with their lives.

The anti-vaccine argument is a specious one on another level: It can protect those who don’t have premarital sex, too. An unvaccinated person who is a virgin on his or her wedding night can catch HPV from an infected spouse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, HPV is the most common STD in the United States; approximately half of sexually active Americans will be infected with at least one strain of HPV at some point in their life – and many don’t even know it.

In most cases, the body’s immune system clears out HPV within two years, but in others it can lead to genital warts and a variety of cancers. It can even be passed on to unborn babies. Each year, HPV causes cervical cancer in 12,000 women. The five-year survival rate, with treatment, is about 72 percent. But many cases are diagnosed too late.

Some of the HPV vaccine debate has been about whether it should be mandatory, as other vaccines are for school-age children. The state of Washington does not require the HPV vaccine (a series of three shots) but does recommend it for females beginning at age 11 or 12 and males beginning at age 9. The vaccine is most effective if given before sexual activity begins.

Mandatory or not, the HPV vaccine can save lives. Parents who want to protect their children from potentially deadly cancers should have them inoculated.

Leave a comment Comments → 2
  1. njstringer says:

    You fail to mention the fact that this vaccine has been proven to have adverse side effects and has led to deaths. No person should be required to have a vaccination just like no woman should be forced to undergo genital mutilation nor any man be required to be circumcised.

    HPV vaccinations only protect against 3 of the 200 strains of the virus…so in saying that the vaccination is useful is weighing on the odds of contracting one of the 3 strains that do in fact lead to cancer.

    You also fail to mention that nearly 70% of HPV cases resolve themselves through the body’s own immune defenses and after 2 years of having HPV that number can jump to nearly 90%.

    So why then is this vaccine necessary? It would seem that we are putting much effort, money, research and marketing into something that can do more harm than good.

    The CDC as of 2011 has reported that HPV vaccines have been linked to nearly 70 deaths, over 25,000 reported cases of adverse reactions including sterilization and miscarriage and has been shown to incite the development of Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

    In the United States we have grown accustomed to seeking out the least laborious means of prevention; pills for weight loss instead of diet and exercise changes, school-based education for sex and drugs instead of parental guidance and now rather than teaching our children that abstinence is more effective than a vaccination and that healthy, responsible lifestyle choices are necessary we seek out a vaccination that is neither safe nor trule effective.

  2. amadalong says:

    Exposing that small percent who don’t vaccinate to those who do is a disservice.”

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