It is estimated that 80 percent of women in the United States will be infected with , the most common sexually transmitted disease in the county, at some point in their lives. Of the more than 40 strains of HPV, most lead to unsightly genital warts or benign warts found on the woman’s cervix. However, there are a handful of strains that can lead to cervical cancer.
According the American Academy of Pediatrics, there are an estimated 13,000 diagnosed cases of cervical cancer each year, with approximately 4,000 ending in death. With routine pap smears, cervical is one of the most preventable and treatable forms of cancer. Although routine pap smears have allowed gynecologists to catch the cancer before it spreads too far, the end result is young women having hysterectomies (the removal of their female reproductive organs) too often--dreams of birthing their own children taken away by something that can so easily be prevented.
In 2006, the FDA approved Gardasil for use, one of the two HPV vaccines currently on the market. Just three short years later, Cervavix, another HPV vaccine, was approved, and put on the market. The releases of these vaccines were immediately met with outrage by many parents who claimed that the vaccine promoted sexual promiscuity. Most recently, the vaccine has gained public attention in the GOP Presidential campaign trail.
In 2007, presidential hopeful and current Governor of Texas Rick Perry pushed to mandate the vaccine. His push led to a heated debate with Minnesota representative and presidential hopeful Michele Bachmann. She made claims that, not only did mandating the vaccine promote promiscuity, but also was associated with mental retardation and even death.
So what do we do? Should there be a nationwide order for all young girls to receive the vaccine? Why should anyone have to face the risk of getting cancer when there are preventable measures that can be taken?
I think at the heart of this debate is something very personal. Cancer isn’t like the other diseases that vaccines help prevent, this is cancer we’re talking about here. We’re talking about our daughters’ futures. I have friends that have lost so much of their cervixes that they are unable to have children of their own. A vaccine that is said to prevent cervical cancer coupled with routine pap smears could allow us to eventually stop the spread of the disease.
But, should it be mandated? I have to say "no" to this one. I think this vaccine is different from others because the disease it is associated with is caused by sexual activity. For many families, this causes a big problem. Why would they want to get their young daughters vaccinated when they are trying to teach abstinence and saving themselves for marriage?
The decision is a personal one that parents are perfectly capable of making. They know what is best for their family and their children. I will even go as far as to say I think young women should be able to receive the vaccine without their parents consent at a clinic.
While I don’t like to think about my daughter being sexually active someday, I know it’s going to happen. Will we vaccinate her? I honestly haven’t made a decision yet. We’re fortunate enough to have time on our hands. By the time my daughter is old enough to receive the vaccine, I hope there is more information regarding its safety. And when the time comes, we’ll make a decision together, as a family, because nobody will ever know my children as well as I do.