HPV Vaccine-Does She Need It
Dear Dr. Rachael. My daughter will start the sixth grade next year and it has been highly recommended that she receive the cervical cancer vaccine. I live in Texas one of the first states to make the vaccine mandatory. I am really confused about whether or not I should give it to her. What is your opinion on the issue? Would you give it to your daughter?
What a great question! It is so difficult to imagine our precious young angels intertwined in the throws of passion. In our minds, sixth graders should jump rope; play basketball, perfect beautification strategies, but certainly their activity list should not include S-E-X. Let’s begin this conversation with a bit of gut-wrenching reality: according to a study conducted by the Motivational Educational Entertainment Productions and the Centers of Disease Control, in The African American community, the average age that kids begin to have engage in sexual activity is thirteen.
Since HPV and cervical cancer is in fact a sexually transmitted disease, it is important to keep the number thirteen in mind as we explore the merits of this controversial vaccination. HPV, human papilloma virus, is the virus that causes genital warts as well as most form of cervical cancer. The virus passes from person to person through physical contact, and more specifically through physical intimate contact. According to the Guttmacher Institute this cycle of genital HPV transmission occurs in approximately 5.5million Americans on a yearly basis.
Once the virus enters a woman’s body she has the potential to develop cervical cancer, genital warts, or neither. Her risk of developing cervical cancer increase if she starts to have sex at an early age (like thirteen), has given birth to many children, has had many sexual partners, smoke cigarettes, uses oral contraceptives (“the Pill”), or has a weakened immune system.
In The United States, which has an estimated population of 300 million individuals, last year there were 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer and 3,700 women died of cervical cancer related causes. Keep these numbers in mind as we explore what Webster defines an epidemic: “as affecting or tending to affect a disproportionately large number of individuals within a population, community, or region at the same time.” Because most women receive yearly Pap-Smears, cervical cancer in the United States can hardly be considered an epidemic.
To address this perceived epidemic, Gardasil has been developed by Merck pharmaceuticals and marketed as the first vaccination available to prevent up to 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital wart outbreaks. To come up with this data, Merck studied close to 17,000 women between the ages of sixteen and twenty-six for up to four years. Since the age cut-off was sixteen, the study probably did not include any sixth graders.
Yes, age is certainly more than just a number. However, when you live in a community where kids begin to have sex at thirteen, it is easy to dismiss that problem and focus all of our attention and energy towards vaccinating to protect our children against viruses that will kill very few of them. Gardasil, the HPV vaccine will undoubtedly become a mandate across the country. However, what will remain in place is a parent’s ability to opt out of the mandate. Now you have the facts necessary to make an informed and educated decision for your very own precious angel. Will my future daughters receive the vaccination? No they will not.
Listen to a recent commentary I did on Tavis Smiley’s Radio Show.