Gardasil Controversy: To Vaccinate Or Not To Vaccinate

April 1, 2009

When the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced its recommendation that young girls aged 11 or 12 should be vaccinated for the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) there was a great to-do on the part of the clergy and parents all over America. Clergymen and parents alike felt that the recommendation had the effect of giving a stamp of approval to sexual relations between minors.

HPV is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) and can cause vaginal warts and cervical cancer. Statistics point to American girls becoming sexually active at a much younger age than in past years. Most of them seem to lose their virginity just as they enter their teens, with some indulging in sexual experimentation at an even younger age. Gardasil is designed to be used in girls as young as nine, and not a small number of girls are sexually active by this tender age. But parents and clergy are concerned that having teenaged and preteen aged girls vaccinated gives them the go-ahead on having sex.

Moral Implications of HPV Vaccination

On the other hand, the vaccine only works before exposure. A delay in giving the vaccine while everyone figures out the moral implications could have fatal consequences. Even if a less than dire scenario plays out, HPV wreaks havoc on anyone's personal life. Aside from early consensual sex there's also rape to consider. Shouldn't we protect our daughters from the possibility of getting HPV after a brutal rape?

Some parents have decided to take the stance that it's better to take every precaution available. They really don't want their kids to have sex before they become adults, but they'd rather vaccinate them and run that risk than leave them vulnerable to a disease that is known to cause cancer. Even if a daughter waits to marry before she has sex, who says her husband won't have a case of HPV, asymptomatic in his case, but which may prove deadly to his wife? Vaccinate, say these parents.

Doesn't Wash: Men and Gardasil

But, again, on the other side of the argument is the fact that no one is recommending that boys and men get vaccinated, even though they spread the disease to women. While most men with HPV get no symptoms, some feel it's not fair for them to evade responsibility for their part in spreading HPV to their girlfriends, wives, and kids. When questioned, the researchers say they haven't tested the vaccine on men, but somehow this doesn't wash. Why didn't they test it in men to begin with? A lot of people are relieved that Merck, the manufacturer of the vaccine, has finally decided to begin trials on Gardasil to determine its safety and efficacy in men.

 

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