I have had a bee in my bonnet over Gardasil since its debut. Why on earth would I want to have my daughter vaccinated for a few types of one disease, a teensy fraction of the horrors one can contract while having unprotected sex? Yet, according to the CDC, a quarter of American parents of teens disagree with me.
Merck itself admits: “GARDASIL may not fully protect everyone, and does not prevent all types of cervical cancer… GARDASIL will not protect against diseases caused by other HPV types or against diseases not caused by HPV.”
To be exact, Gardasil does not protect against 30% of the types of HPV which cause cervical cancer. Armed with this knowledge, who would get the vaccine and then feel comfortable having unprotected sex with questionable partners? I am unable to find exact stats, but I would personally feel much safer using a condom. When used correctly, condoms are fairly reliable protection–although they still leave a woman partially susceptible, because HPV can be spread to and from peripheral areas which are left uncovered.
Then there are the other things for which you are at risk: gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and herpes, to name a few. And don’t forget about pregnancy. I know some of you are wondering what kind of idiot would think this vaccine could serve as birth control. The answer is not an idiot, but a teenager. (These are some of the same kids who don’t believe oral sex qualifies as sex.) My mother-in-law told me about a girl who had been told by one of her peers about the virtues of the vaccine–which in her warped perception included birth control. I hope this girl was an exception; however, perceived protection against pregnancy is not the only false sense of security encouraged by Gardasil.
As if all this weren’t enough, this shot is hurting girls. They don’t go over this in the saccharine-sweet commercial in which the mother-daughter pairs discuss their reasons for vaccinating while painting one another’s nails. One 18-year-old, Amanda, was a varsity athlete until she received her first dose. She developed pain at her injection site, which traveled to the rest of her body. She is now chronically ill and must take morphine just to get through the pain. There are others, although to be fair, it is not clear in all the cases that Gardasil caused the illness. The mere shadow of a chance is enough for me.
I cannot fathom taking my daughter to get a shot which will leave her 30% susceptible to cancer-causing HPV and will put her at risks the likes of which we may not even know yet. Furthermore, I think vaccinating a girl at such a young age sends the message that we, as a society and as parents, expect her to be promiscuous. If we didn’t, why would we vaccinate her at all? When I was a teenager my mother explained to me that she didn’t want me to have sex before marriage, but if I thought I might I should come tell her so she could help me take necessary precautions. To me, there is a huge difference between that and vaccinating all our girls for an STD when some are barely old enough to know what sex is. My mom’s approach sent the message that she didn’t expect that kind of behavior from me in the first place.
So what are we trying to do here? Are they going to continue to develop vaccines until they have every imaginable STD covered (if not eradicated), at which point we all might as well go at it like rabbits? Have we become feminists to the point we believe a girl should be able to have as much sex as she wants without any fear of repercussions? On a spiritual level, that Brave New World vision doesn’t work for me. Sex isn’t something teenagers should be having for a myriad of reasons, and all the research in the world can’t create a vaccine to protect them from the emotional damage it can cause.
The only situation for which I can mentally justify the vaccine is an adult woman planning to have sex with a man she knows to be infected. Even with a condom she could be susceptible and, in the context of a long-term relationship, I think immunization would be advisable. Indiscriminately giving the vaccine to the masses probably will increase herd immunity, but I don’t think the risks are worth the benefit when many people are not even part of said herd. This is a disease we can avoid by way of abstinence.
I am so glad that Jordan and I were able to give one another the gift of knowing without a doubt that our marriage would never be plagued with an STD (not to mention the emotional baggage that may have come from previous partners). It means even more to me now as a mother, because several venereal diseases can cause harm to a baby during pregnancy and childbirth. I wish every woman could have the peace of mind I have, but they aren’t going to find it in a syringe.