This is one of THE most scrutinized vaccines in the history of vaccines research and development. It has only been in actual clinical use for 6 years but researchers say that is has been held to the highest standard during its testing phases. This prophylactic (prevention) vaccination has the power to save lives - lots and lots of lives. But we've turned it into a discussion about sexuality and promiscuity and anything but saving lives.
Having just monitored days and days of electrifying discussion over the "choice issue," I do not take teen sex lightly. I've been involved over the years in talks about sex education and abstinence and other teen-charged issues. But can we please, as parents realize, that this vaccine can prevent a devastating cancer that has a high mortality rate. And we know from the clinical trials that the best age range to vaccinate - from an antibody protection perspective AND from a "teen behavior" perspective - is 9-14 years old.
I have raised two very different teens in the same household with the same rules and values and communications and they have chosen very different peer groups and life experiences. So I defy any parent to tell me that because one child has made entirely different choices in a lot of situations that I was less vigilant, less involved, less aware. I was simply faced with a very different "life script" with each child, very different innate personalities. So please, please don't make this medical choice a validation of sexual promiscuity or even sexual behavior. Even religious, well adjusted, well educated, morally responsible teens make momentary decisions that they regret or that they simply acknowledge as "yeah ...that was out of character...I don't know why I did that. Well, if one of those decisions is to have unprotected sex with a male partner who passes on HPV - your daughter - for that one act - can be at risk of developing cancer.
And, if you are unaware that HPV - human papillomavirus is at epidemic proportions - then as a parent, you need to reconcile with that medical reality. Having your daughter vaccinated for HPV can simply be a discussion about "another vaccine that will protect you." You can decide when and how to broach the subject of sex and when to offer the news that she is, indeed, the recipient of a lifesaving vaccine. But I implore parents to really "get the facts" about the HPV vaccine and to hopefully decide that life is more precious than some of the other issues that may be clouding a clear decision.
Published On: September 19, 2008