Life HPV: To Vaccinate or Not to Vaccinate. What a Stupid Question.
posted by January 29 at 10:32 AMon
The front-page story in the Seattle Times today is about Merck’s HPV vaccine Gardasil, which prevents the most dangerous strains of a virus that causes cervical cancer.
There’s some nervousness about the vaccine qua vaccine—the usual hippie suspicion of shots—but what confounds me are (a) the “we’re Christian, she’ll be abstinent” argument, and (b) the “vaccine against an STI will increase promiscuity” argument.
First of all, it doesn’t matter if she stays a virgin till her lily-white wedding night. If her husband picked up HPV before he “settled down” or became a born-again Christian—there have always been double standards for men and women, and this is the most tenacious—then tough shit. And hello, cervical cancer.
Second, who says you need to tell your kid how you get the virus she’s being vaccinated against? I don’t recall anyone teaching me how measles, mumps, and rubella were contracted when I got my shots. But I knew they were diseases, and that they were bad, and I didn’t want to get them.
Another Seattle mother took her daughter to get the vaccine but explained only that it would prevent a virus that leads to cancer—no mention of STDs or exactly what kind of cancer.
“She’s not a sophisticated girl,” the mother said. “My daughter is very uncomfortable discussing anything physical.”
Maybe this lady is being squeamish, and for sure, her daughter would probably benefit from a scientifically accurate sex-ed class at school. But I think this explanation is perfectly adequate. Get three shots, avoid cancer. You go, anonymous mom.
Here’s my article from July about the development and politics of the HPV vaccine.