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What Controversy Surrounds the New Cervical Cancer Vaccine?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 November 2016
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The cervical cancer vaccine, called Gardasil or the HPV vaccine has tremendous promise in preventing infection of a few forms of human papillomavirus virus. The cervical cancer vaccine prevents infection of four types of HPV, and appears to have minor side effects. Despite its relative safety, the cervical cancer vaccine has provoked some controversy.

Some people oppose the cervical cancer vaccine because they feel it sends an inappropriate message to children that it is okay to be sexually active. Vaccinating pre-teen girls is to some, like giving information about birth control. It appears to support a behavior that in reality a family may not support. Parents are legitimately concerned about the vaccine increasing promiscuity in young girls and young women.

Other people are concerned that the cervical cancer vaccine may send another wrong message to young girls. They may feel invulnerable or safe from contracting all forms of HPV, when the vaccine only protects against four of these viruses. This could lead to riskier sexual behavior, which could increase incidence of HIV, other sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancy.

Doctors are concerned that both parents and their children may not understand the lack of protection the cervical cancer vaccine provides. The cervical cancer vaccine helps reduce risk of contracting HPV, but children can get other types. Doctors want to be certain that education exists that helps both parents and children to see that the cervical cancer vaccine is not a cure-all.

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Many in the medical community are further concerned that parents may not view their children as “at risk” for getting HPV. Thus they are avidly promoting the cervical cancer vaccination by providing as much information as possible. Even if a girl waits until she is married to engage in sexual behavior, she still could get one of the forms of HPV the vaccine protects against. In worse case scenarios, a girl might be raped, and there is a good likelihood that a rapist will have HPV. About 50% of people who are sexually active will ultimately contract it.

Some counter that getting a nine or ten year old the cervical cancer vaccine is not likely to increase promiscuity. It is probably the case that a younger girl, who is used to getting vaccinations is not likely to even realize what the cervical cancer vaccine is. For those parents concerned about promoting promiscuity, they might simply refer to the vaccine as the HPV, just like we have the DTP. Younger kids are more concerned about the fact that they’re going to get a shot, than what the shot is for.

Still, this debate over the cervical cancer vaccine is likely to continue, since it defines a basic split in beliefs concerning morality that is common in the US. With appropriate education, understanding, and dialogue, over time, the HPV vaccine may become just another preventative measure parents take to protect their children from a potentially debilitating and deadly disease.

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browncoat
Post 3

@clintflint - I find it difficult to sympathize with parents who are against vaccination. I feel like they need to talk to their own parents about what it was like when polio was common, and children were regularly crippled by diseases for which there is no cure.

Even the people who originally spread misinformation about vaccines have recanted, but people still won't listen. When you add that to the sexual and religious hysteria that people might feel over a vaccine that prevents a sexually transmitted virus and people just don't act in their own best interests.

Worse, they don't act in the best interests of their children and the children who will have to interact with their children.

clintflint
Post 2

@MrsPramm - There is so much fear surrounding vaccinations at the moment, I can really sympathize with parents who aren't sure about this one. I mean, logically, even if you think vaccines in general are risky, there is more of a risk that someone might contract, say, measles, so it makes sense to get that vaccine.

HPV is hardly ever talked about and very few people realize that it can lead to cervical cancer. A vaccine against cancer would be embraced, because anyone can get that, but one against an STD must just sound like they are risking their child's safety for no good reason.

MrsPramm
Post 1

To me, it just seems like a logical thing to do. You have no idea when your children are young, what will happen to them in the future. So why not protect them from every disease you possibly can?

Not only that, but in normalizing this vaccine you will make it possible for these viruses to eventually be eradicated. So even if you think there is no possible way that your kid will ever need the vaccine, it's still better for the world if they get it.

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