The CDC is "very disappointed" with us. Gasp! For shame! Yes, the Centers for Disease Control don't like the fact that only one third of teen girls in America have received the recommended three doses of the HPV vaccine -- Guardasil -- only half have volunteered to get the vaccination at all. As you probably know, the vaccine protects against human papilloma virus, a sexually-transmitted virus that can lead to cervical cancer.
Cervical cancer being the rather unpleasant affliction that it is, the CDC can't understand why, as parents, we're not dragging our girls to the doctor and rolling up their sleeves for them. But shockingly enough, the HPV vaccine is not in fact the magic bullet they'd have us believe.
There are, as it turns out, some pretty serious risks associated with the HPV vaccine, ranging from random fainting spells to life-threatening blood clots to chronic autoimmune disease and even death. Plus, researchers aren't even sure if the vaccine remains effective after five years. Which, for a vaccine against a sexually transmitted disease that's administered during adolescence, doesn't really make sense -- the protective qualities will wear off just when women need them the most.
Of all the decisions we have to make as parents on our children's behalf, I think some of the most difficult judgment calls have to do with vaccinations. This is because 1.) The choices we make directly impact our children's health in potentially drastic ways, and 2.) There is so much conflicting information thrown at us about whether vaccines are dangers to be avoided or life-saving imperatives.
I was relieved when my kids were past the point of boosters and combination vaccines and shots that left them feverish and cranky for hours. But now my daughter is 10, and soon I'll have to decide whether or not to get her vaccinated for HPV.
What would you decide?
Image via Zaldylmg/Flickr