My Daughters Will Get the HPV Vaccine Despite the 'Risks'

Jenny Erikson Health Check

Vaccinations are controversial. Sex, especially teen sex, is controversial. So when we’re talking about a vaccination against a sexually transmitted disease recommended for 11-year-old girls, you know it’s going to get controversial.

First off, let’s dispel with the rumors that a vaccination for human papillomavirus will lead to sexually promiscuous teenagers. While some opponents of Gardasil and Cervarix (the two HPV vaccines currently on the market) may worry that protecting girls against STDs is like handing them a permission slip to have sex, yet another study was recently released disproving this.

Teens are no more or less likely to engage in risky sexual behavior after receiving the vaccine. OK, moral issues addressed. What next? Oh yes, the health and safety concerns.

Because if Gardasil isn’t going to turn my daughters into strumpets, it will probably make them sick. Or kill them. Because there have been other girls that have been vaccinated that then later died from causes that may or may not have been related to how their particular body chemistry reacted to the drug.

More from The Stir: More Parents Are Saying 'No' to the HPV Vaccine & I'm One of Them

And didn’t one of the lead developers of Gardasil, Dr. Diane Harper, admit that it was skeery and dangerous to vaccinate girls against HPV? Not so much. First of all, she wasn’t a “lead” developer, but let’s not even dwell on that. Second, Dr. Harper has questioned the necessity of the vaccination in relation to its cost and effective longevity. In other words, she’s just not sure if the vaccine lasts long enough without a booster to be cost-effective.

That’s quite a bit different than saying it’s dangerous. In fact, she has given strong and scientifically qualified endorsements to HPV vaccines in several peer-reviewed, high impact journals.

So there you go.

But what about all those cases of adverse side effects we keep hearing about? Out of 56 million doses of HPV vaccine given thus far in the U.S, about 22,000 adverse effects have been reported. So 22,000 sounds like a lot, until you realize that it’s just under 0.04 percent.

That number shrinks even further when you consider that these incidents are self-reported, which means that there’s not necessarily causation between the vaccine and the reported side effect. Soreness at the injection site -- sure, that is most likely due to being jabbed with a needle and pumped full of vaccine. But headaches? Dizziness? Fatigue? Call me crazy, but couldn’t those symptoms also be caused by, oh, I don’t know, the onset of puberty? Just food for thought.

Of course, with any vaccination, there is some risk involved. There will be people who react badly. There will be cases where it’s ineffective. But overall, I think the chance to protect my daughters against HPV and potential cervical cancer is worth the minuscule risk involved.

Would you vaccinate your daughters for HPV?


Image via hitthatswitch/Flickr

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safety, sex, preventative medicine