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HPV Vaccine Promotes Promiscuity?

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New controversy surrounds vaccine.


HPV is the virus that just keeps giving. A new study actually links the human papillomavirus to lung cancer. But this news hasn't impressed conservative groups who dub the HPV vaccine the "promiscuity vaccine."

Never mind that human papillomavirus is linked to cervical cancer along with vulva, vaginal, penile and anal cancer.

Never mind that an estimated one in four teenage girls is infected with the virus.

Since Merck's Gardasil hit the market in 2006, opponents have insisted that giving the vaccine to teens is tantamount to giving teens a "license to have sex."

Momlogic pediatrician Dr. Cara disagrees, for three reasons:

1. The vaccine starts doctor/teen conversations. "My experience with the HPV vaccine is that it has given pediatricians an opportunity to open up the discussion of sex, STDs, and pregnancy with younger patients," she says.

2. The vaccine starts teen/parent conversations. "Because I need to speak with both parents and teens about shots, the HPV vaccine was often a conversation starter. In my own practice, it only enhanced my ability to talk with kids about the physical and emotional dangers of having sex at too young an age.

3. The vaccine helps teens understand the seriousness of having sex. "It lends gravity to the discussion of STDs--because there is a shot out there to prevent one (and because most girls get the shot, and it kind of hurts), teens understand that these STDs are not just theoretical diseases that cannot affect them."

Would you/will you give your teen the HPV vaccine?

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14 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous May 8, 2008, 10:09 AM

I have 2 daughters, 9 & 11. I have discussed this at length with their pediatrician and have not yet given them the vaccine. My hesitation is not because of promoting sex, but I’m not convinced of the safety. This vaccine was introduced in America only 2 years ago. Eventhough the only advertised possible side affects are “pain & swelling @ injection site”..I’m not convinced. (Because we all know how honest pharmaceutical companies are about long term effects.) Evidently there’s a 10 year study in progress in Sweden (I think this is year 8). I’ll wait for the results.

laura May 8, 2008, 10:10 AM

Having HPV myself, I would absolutely without hesitation give my daughter the HPV vaccine. I developed HPV in college and it rears its ugly head every so often which means Paps every 3 months instea dof every year and an occasional biopsy. 3 of my friends were diagnosed with HPV after college and one recently told me that having HPV caused her life insurance premium to double since she is at higher risk for cervical cancer. Preventing disease does not encourage promiscuity—HPV is just one of the many many consequences of being sexually active.

amy May 8, 2008, 10:33 AM

Honestly I have completed this series of shots. All I had was headaches and pain. No more painful than the old shots.

Mom2Divas May 8, 2008, 10:34 AM

Laura—i 100% agree with you. Possibly because i also have HPV. Its something you cant see, something you dont know and something that even a fiance’ of 5 years can give you. I have 2 little girls as well, 6 and 1, by the time they are ready for the shot the results will be back, but if they were older..i’m sure i would still do it. I have taken my 2 little sisters and both are getting their 3rd shot in a few weeks. People dont realize how much damage 3 little letters can cause. I also have paps every 3 months along with biopsys every so often. I have since left my ex and am married now. We have to take many crappy precausions to keep my husband safe. He is still not shown any signs, i would like to keep it that way. Any shot that can keep girls from going through the things that Laura and I have to endure is AMAZING to me. Just look at the chicken pox vax..are people saying it promotes playing with kids that havent had one…its crazy! DO THE RESEARCH…GET THE SHOT…BE ONE LESS!!

Lesley May 8, 2008, 10:45 AM

I agree with the first commentor. I have 2 teenage dds and there is no way I would let them have the shot. I think more research needs to be done about the possible long term effects.

Kelly May 8, 2008, 12:38 PM

I have HPV—and so does almost everyone reading this, whether they know it or not. It’s estimated that 80% of women have it, though it does not always cause symptoms. I had to have minor surgery for cervical dysplasia, caused by HPV, which can lead to cancer. Also, another strain of HPV causes genital warts, which are extremely common. Once you get HPV, you can’t ever truly be sure you’re rid of it—even if it stops causing symptoms, they can come back even years later. So it also means that once you get it, you really should have that conversation about how you have an STI with every new sexual partner. (Not fun.) I understand the concern over vaccine safety—but it’s also important that you weigh that against the risk of *not* giving your daughter this vaccine. For the best info I’ve ever seen on HPV, see and click on HPV on the left side of the page.

Mary Jo May 8, 2008, 1:47 PM

Vaccine safety is an important issue and I’m not sure about this one because it so new. For me, this isn’t a huge issue — my son is 3 and my daughter is 3 months, so we should have good data by the time I’m making my final decision.

As to the promiscuity issue — as a faithful Catholic, I will be teaching my children that sex outside of marriage is immoral. But that is not a reason, in my mind, to avoid an HPV vaccine. First, children frequently don’t do what their parents want them too. As much as I don’t relish the thought, my children may well choose to engage in premarital sex. Second, even if my children don’t engage in sex before marriage, there is no guarantee their future spouses will wait. As long as I am comfortable with the saftey record of this vaccine, my daughters (and sons, if possible) will be getting it.

B May 8, 2008, 5:36 PM

Personally, my pet peeve with the whole HPV vaccine is twofold, neither of which actually have to do with the specific vaccine or the virus. My first is that the commercial states that it’s a vaccine against this horrible virus. It doesn’t, however, make any comment about how one gets this horrible virus. HPV is not like the chickenpox or RSV—something that comes just from regular interaction with other human beings. A person does not need a virus to which they have never exposed themselves. I think the advertisement plays on people’s fears of cancer and death without giving any background information as to how HPV is transmitted. That just bugs me to no end.

My second issue is with the idea of making it a mandatory vaccine. Again, I say that getting HPV is not like getting a cold. There are other ways to avoid it. Convenient how the Governor of Texas and the pharmaceutical company happen to be good friends, and how making it a mandatory vaccine would line the pockets of both people quite nicely. Can we say ulterior motive?

As a high school health teacher, I am very familiar with the sexual habits of teenagers, their level of understanding as well as the need for better, comprehensive sex-ed programs that are being denied students because of the fears, prejudices and shortsightedness of a few zealots. Time and time again, research has shown that when people are informed with all the information, they make better choices. I think this goes for deciding if and when to have sex as well as whether or not one should get a vaccine.

As for the idea that it promotes promiscuity, I don’t think a shot can promote one to behave a certain way. I do, however, think that it creates a mindset of false security and enforces the idea that there are no consequences for choices (be they good or bad choices). Promiscuity is only one of the many resultant behaviors from such a paradigm and the vaccine is only one of a myriad of enforcers.

Julie May 9, 2008, 12:39 AM

When my new baby girl comes of age to receive the vaccine, will I have her vaccinated? Assuming it has been proven safe by that time, my answer is absolutely YES for the following reasons.

1. Teenagers will likely make at least one choice other than what we’d like them to make. Just as I will tell my children to call me to come pick them up if they decide to drink alcohol, not because I condone the drinking but because I don’t want them to suffer fatal consequences because of that decision, I don’t want my daughter to face fatal consequences for having bad judgement in her teenage years.

2. As mentioned by others who have posted here, even if my daughter exercises good judgement and waits to have sex, she can’t guarantee that her partner did the same.

3. As much as we will do everything we can to protect our daughter, god forbid the unspeakable happen to her and she is the victim of a sexual assault. How can parents not get their daughters vaccinated? To suffer an assault and as a result likely have a virus that could cause cancer. How will they answer their daughters when asked why they didn’t have the girls vaccinated? “We didn’t protect you against this disease because we didn’t want to give you the impression that we were promoting promiscuity.” Really? That’s unforgiveable.

vicki May 14, 2008, 10:24 PM

I would never give my daughter this vaccine or any that isn’t tested for a long period of time. Girls have died from this experimental vaccine. There was an oby/gyn on Oprah who said the same thing. My daugher will NOT get the vaccine.

Shawnna November 15, 2009, 2:52 PM

My 13 yr old daughter is getting ready for the third shot of the series. I, myself was diagnosed with HPV to late…. it became cervical cancer and I almost died at the age of 27. With 2 small children I’m glad i’m still here and my cheating ex-husband is gone. This shot doesn’t promote promiscuity. And you better believe after having a full hysterectomy, that my daughter was getting the shot. No questions about it. Any vaccine has a risk! This vaccine isn’t even a weakened form of the virus.

lenen August 4, 2010, 4:18 PM

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hypotheek August 8, 2010, 10:46 PM

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nolvadex January 17, 2011, 10:20 PM

Laughter is the best medicine

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