HPV vaccination offers prevention
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 15:10
Recent opposition toward the vaccination for HPV, the human papillomavirus, has slowly been mounting. Gardasil vaccinates against the four most common strains of HPV, two of which cause genital warts and two that can cause cervical dysplasia, a condition that can lead to cervical cancer.
Conservative groups have expressed their concerns about the message the vaccine sends, calling it an attack on parental rights and family values. But the results of a comprehensive four-year study have recently shown that the idea that the vaccine promotes promiscuity in young children, especially girls, is completely unfounded and that there is no correlation between children becoming promiscuous and receiving the vaccine.
The study, published in the journal Pediatrics, looked at 1398 girls, 493 of which had been given the vaccine, the other 905 had not. Researchers measured the sexual activity rates to determine if there was an increase among study participants who had received the vaccine. There was no increase.
Coni Butler, a Texas mother of three and devout Catholic, had her children vaccinated for HPV. Despite advocating that her son and two daughters remain chaste until marriage, she told the New York Times, “I tell my friends that you pray for the best, but you plan for the worst.”
The truth is that teenagers and young adults are going to have sex, and there isn’t much their parents can do to prevent it. If fear of the message being sent by this vaccine is legitimate, that logic must be applied to anything associated with sex. Should condoms not be made available in any fashion until a minor turns 18? Should sex education not be taught because it might give students ideas? Both of these scenarios are, of course, ridiculous, but not necessarily fatal.
Conservative groups attempting to thwart the vaccine’s progress have used legal tactics. Legislative efforts to make the vaccine free for low-income families were vetoed earlier this year by South Carolina’s Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
Cervical cancer kills 250,000 women each year and can, in many cases, be detected early and be completely preventable. Providing protection against HPV, a virus that can cause cancer, does not encourage children to engage in risky sexual behavior, and so many deaths from cervical cancer can be eliminated with widespread circulation of the vaccine and education about the risks associated with HPV.
It is estimated that nearly a third of children ages 14 to 19 are infected with HPV. This age group includes students entering college their freshman year. It is imperative for both young men and women to get vaccinated.
Because there is no approved test for HPV in men, women and men should be especially careful and take the simple precaution of getting vaccinated. Men can unknowingly transmit the virus, and although the specific strains that cause cervical cancer do not affect men, being vaccinated can easily prevent it altogether. A majority of college students is sexually active and this information can help students make safe, informed decisions regarding their health. Cancer is no joke, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.