The HPV vaccine Gardasil has been controversial ever since it received FDA approval back in 2006 for the prevention of certain strains* of the human papilloma virus (HPV) in women. Since the vaccine doesn’t work against existing infections, the FDA recommended that Gardasil be administered to girls around the age of 11 or 12, before the onset of puberty and sexual activity.
The recommendation that young girls be given a vaccine to present sexually transmitted diseases was hailed as a triumph of science by some and as a dangerous and unneccessary intervention by others. In recent weeks, the controversy has bubbled up again in the Republican Presidential Debates, with Texas Governor Rick Perry receiving criticism for mandating the HPV vaccination for young girls in Texas and Rep. Michele Bachmann claiming that the vaccine could cause mental retardation.
Examining the various responses to the use of the HPV vaccine in girls is an interesting study of peoples’ discomfort with vaccines, their lack of trust in medical science, and the continued stigmatization of sexually transmitted diseases. Ms. Bachmann’s claim that the HPV vaccine can cause mental impairments in children is patently false, but the fact that she would make such a statement speaks strongly to the fears that many people have when it comes to vaccinating their children. There is also the undercurrent of fear that giving girls this vaccine may in some way encourage them to engage in promiscuous sexual activity.
Which brings us to now. In recent days, the CDC has come out with the strong recommendation that pre-pubescent boys also receive the HPV vaccine, as the vaccine is also effective in preventing HPV infection in males. We here at Saving Mothers are curious to see the public reaction to this new recommendation. Will people respond the same way they have responded to the recommendation that girls receive the vaccine? Or will the reaction be different when it comes to administering the HPV vaccine to boys?
Feel free to write in and share your thoughts with us. We’re always curious to hear what our readers have to say. What are your thoughts on childhood vaccinations? Is the HPV vaccine something you would want for your own children?
*Strains 6, 11, 16 & 18 are prevented by the vaccine. Strains 16 and 18 are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancers in women and strains 6 and 11 are responsible for 90% of genital wart cases.