Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Gardasil: Why We Are Vaccinating Our Teens

This wasn't an easy decision. Other parents will come to different conclusions about Gardasil. But I am urging my friends to consider the vaccine for their children.

The lives you save could be theirs.

  Gardasil, Merck's HPV vaccine, prevents an estimated 70 percent of cervical cancers in women, as well as preventing anal and penile cancer in men. A tiny number of boys in this country and just 30 percent of girls are vaccinated.  (Men can transmit HPV and the virus also causes other cancers in men.) So why aren't all responsible parents making sure their kids are vaccinated?

Well, the vaccine has become political football. That is a pity because this vaccine can and will save lives. The National Cancer Institute says Gardasil prevent nearly 100 percent of the precancerous cervical cell changes caused by the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine for up to 4 years after vaccination among women who were not infected at the time of vaccination. While Pap smears have reduced cervical cancer rates, about 4,500 women a year in the United States die of cervical cancer.

Leave it to politicians to mess things up.

In 2007, Gov. Rick Perry of Texas made the bone-headed move of issuing an executive order mandating that girls receive the vaccine in order to attend school. It didn't help his cause that he had financial ties to Merck. Thankfully, his legislature overrode him.

Because HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, it is inappropriate for the state to require anyone to have this vaccine. Other vaccines that are required are for diseases that can be transmitted through casual contact, such as mumps and measles. That makes sense to me.

Understandably, the kind of heavy-handed approach Perry adopted left many folks, including me, wary of the vaccine, which is delivered in three shots over six months.

I had moral concerns about the vaccine too. Those were answered by a long conversation with one of my sisters and mulling the position of the Catholic Medical Association. You see,  I wondered whether getting our sons vaccinated would somehow send the message we expect them to be sexually promiscuous.

My sister, a practicing Catholic, a family practitioner and an advocate of Gardasil vaccines,  encouraged me to have our sons vaccinated.

First, she said, as much as we raise our children to be chaste and thoughtful, can we absolutely guarantee that they always will be at every moment of young adulthood?

Then, she pointed out, no matter how hard parents try to protect their children, we cannot protect them from the possibility of rape. That possibility, alas, is not remote: one in four college women report either being victims of rape or attempted rape as do three percent of men. 

Finally, even if your own children remain chaste until marriage, their future partners could have the virus.

This report from the Catholic Medical Association sealed the deal for me. The Catholic Medical Association supports "the widespread use of Gardasil for girls and women in the age range for which the vaccine has been recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, because it is effective, safe and ethical to use, provided certain conditions are met. Patients and their parents should be given information sufficient to make an informed decision about the vaccine. In addition, the CMA statement explains, support for the vaccine and similar vaccines in the future, should not be used to undermine support for efforts to promote chastity and to reduce extramarital sexual activity."


  1. Here are some other takes on this http://www.lifesitenews.com/news/archive//ldn/2008/jul/08070809


    I don't see the pros out weighing the cons for the injection. It prob doesn't help that I'm not for all the regular vaccinations of babies and adults either. I think there are times when vaccinations outweigh the cons, but one does need to be aware of the toll of a vaccination on the system (body/gut health).

    Specifically with this vaccine, there does seem to be a money making force pushing the vaccine on young girls (and boys now) from what I've read in ALL magazine.

  2. @Sarah: Yes, we will disagree on this one. The sources you cite are not legitimate scientific sources; more like junk science and rumor mongering.

    I defer to trained physicians and pharmacologists. And to the Nobel Prize committee, which acknowledged the discovery of the link between the virus and very fatal forms of cancer.

    We had our children vaccinated. Often parents who do not vaccinate their children against whooping cough, etc. rely on "herd immunity;" the fact most parents do immunize their children, to keep their children healthy.



  3. Like you, I originally thought that HPV vaccinations were an encouragement toward sexual promiscuity. Ultimately, I opted to have both of our sons vaccinated. What convinced me was reading about the rates of infection, which are extremely high, epidemic levels in many states. Rick Perry should have made it mandatory for boys as well as girls. I believed there was an exception clause for conscience.