Gardasil: The Vaccine That’ll Make ’em Slutty

Jessica Gottlieb
Jessica Gottlieb

My eldest child is thirteen, and it’s time to talk about a lot of things with her and with her doctor. Puberty has brought about conversations that make us all squirm a little and the Gardasil shot has my entire neighborhood uncomfortable.

I was curious about Gardasil when it first hit the market. I was extremely relieved that my daughter was young enough that I didn’t have to make any type of decision in a hurry. When I asked my OB what his opinion was about the HPV vaccine, he practically jumped in the air and clicked his heels together. All in one breath he said, “Can you even imagine a vaccine that will prevent cancer? I mean it doesn’t prevent cancer but it prevents women from getting the virus that gives them cancer and so many women get this. So many of my patients have this and they could have been saved pain and sickness and cancer.” And he went on and on and hardly took a breath so I never asked him if he’d recommend it for his daughter because I knew the answer would be a hearty yes.

What I didn’t expect was the opposition to Gardasil from women who thought that it would give their daughters permission to be promiscuous. No one seemed worried about their sons having more sex, though HPV is a man’s virus as well. HPV is directly linked to cervical cancers and also casually linked to vaginal, vulvar and oropharyngeal cancers.

Still, in the dawn of the year 2012, my neighbors are worried that immunizing our daughters (which ultimately protects sons as well) gives them “permission” to have sex. I’m trying to think of the argument against this bizarre line of thought but I’m not sure it deserves a response. Did the chicken pox vaccine make your kids seek out someone with chicken pox to hug and kiss?

Ultimately I worry our puritanical ways have left us thinking that STDs are something we deserve and we’re more afraid of young adult sexuality than of deadly cancers.

Click here to see all posts on by Jessica Gottlieb.

Jessica Gottlieb is a blogger in Los Angeles. You can also follow her on Twitter (@JessicaGottlieb).


  1. Great perspective! Just proves that simple minded, narrow ways of thinking are alive and well in America huh? Jeesh people! It didn’t take a vaccine at 13 for me to loose my virginity. Wanna know what teenagers are up to? Pay attention and TALK to them! Ask!

  2. Here’s my issue with it. I received the vaccine(s) in 06-07. I still got HPV a year or two later… the invisible, show-no-symptoms until you have pre-cancerous cells kind. First problem? My ex who most likely gave it to me never got tested… because they don’t test people in my generation for it unless it’s a girl who has an abnormal pap. Second problem? The vaccine only covers SOME of the cancer-causing strains– not all of them. Third problem? I read an article (I can find the source if you want) that said the vaccine really only offers protection for 5 years… so if I had gotten vaccinated at 12-13, when the CDC recommends girls get vaccinated, I wouldn’t have had that safety net ::at all:: during college. Yeah, no good.

    I’m very much in favor of the vaccine, but I think a) teens/ya’s need to be better educated about the fact that most 20-somethings will get hpv in their life but most of their immune systems can fight it off, that b) the vaccine doesn’t protect against all strains, that c) it only lasts for a certain number of years, AND — most importantly– that d) if they ARE sexually active, they still need to use protection.

    Sigh. This shit makes me feel like an old lady.

    • This is a very disturbing revelation, and yes, there is a study ongoing that is looking at the effectiveness timeframe. Were they able to identify the strain (ie. was it one that you should have been protected for)?

  3. That’s one vaccine I’m not comfortable with. I’ll let my daughters decide if it’s right for them when they’re adults. They won’t die because they didn’t get it.

    • I hope you’re right, but women do die from these cancers.

      Teenagers are sexually active. I know that everyone says “not mine”… what we should really be saying is “I hope not mine but I’m going to protect them anyhow”.

  4. I have had HPV and survived cancer. I think the vaccine is BS pushed by profit-chasing pharmaceutical companies that don’t have our children’s well being in mind. Healthy living will fight the virus. Eat well, exercise, and teach children how to fight cancer, viruses, and illness naturally is best. My daughter won’t be getting vaccinated.

  5. Laura says that she survived cancer, and therefore her daughter would too. That is irresponsible and cruel. She assumes that the virus is evil because the company that sells it makes money. I assume that she also does not purchase groceries, wear clothing or engage in almost any entertainment activity, because those companies also seek to make money. She assumes that she can protect her children – and we all can protect our children – from “cancer, viruses and illnesses” “naturally” through “healthy living.” Perhaps if Laura lives in a bubble that is true. But as long as families like Laura’s exist — families with individuals who go unvaccinated — unfortunately there is nothing we can do to keep our children safe. Laura, perhaps you can think about other people’s children as well, and get your child vaccinated.

    Fortunately, when Laura’s children turn 18 they can decide for themselves whether they are worthy of protection, and whether they seek to protect others.

    • Wow! That was a lot of assumptions about what I believe! I never said I survived cancer and my child(ren) would too. I said this particular vaccine does not have the best interest of children in mind. There haven’t been enough research to convince me that this vaccine is the end-all-be-all.

      Fortunately, I have done a lot of my own research about the vaccine. I am not against vaccinations, I have a specific problem with this particular vaccine. Based on my own research and consultation with my own doctor, I understand that this vaccine is not the answer.

      Yes, I do believe that we should be concerned with what we put into our bodies and I do not believe this vaccine is the answer. Healthy living is what turned my cancer from something life-threatening to something that doesn’t even show up on a test.

      I am making an informed decision not to vaccinate my child with this particular vaccine because I believe it to be dangerous.

      You can do what you like with your own informed decisions, but the fact remains that pharmaceutical companies send out many harmful vaccines without disclosing all the risks, doing far more harm than good.

    • Just because she doesn’t believe in the vaccine and you do doesn’t give you the right to post attack her like that.

  6. Not having a child vaccinated is something like “child abuse” in my eyes. When a means to prevent a childhood disease exists or as in this case the HPV virus there really is little excuse not to do it.
    I agree that parents should be informed consumers but there really is a preponderance of ignorance when it comes to vaccinations these days.
    In my childhood, polio killed a friend of mine and a few years later there was a vaccine…my mother was apprehensive when the Salk vaccine was being tested but now thankfully there is no high incidence of polio in the U.S.
    Mothers please look at all the evidence and get a relationship with a professional that you respect from a University Medical Center(if possible) to explain the far reaching effects of the decisions you make for you child. Your child depends on you for their life and well-being. You owe it to them.

  7. Rachel, how many clothes or groceries harm people? The plain fact is that pharmaceutical companies have a REALLY bad track record at prevention of disease and protection from harm (YAZ, VIOXX, CELEBREX, AVANDIA, AIDS Tainted products, Live Bird Flu contamination in vaccine….the list goes on), so I can certainly sympathize with the sentiment. And yes, we CAN protect our children through healthy living! HPV is of greatest concern in developing countries and not in the Western World, because our standard of living and our access to health care is so good. (See the WHO website for more info). This vaccine is neither effective (as Lindsay has pointed out), nor economical or safe. As well, according to Canadian and US statistics the number of severe adverse reactions resulting in harm from this vaccine is greater than the number of cervical cancer cases, let alone deaths each year. We are also, just now, beginning to see some of the longer term effects from the vaccine such as reproductive problems and an increase in cancerous lesions in young women previously vaccinated with Gardasil and Cervarix. The truth is that this vaccine has problems, which the scientific establishment is unwilling to solve. It is just unfortunate that opponents of the vaccine have chosen to pick a social welfare issue instead of the more urgent health one.

  8. As a nurse, I did a lot of research regarding this vaccine. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give it to my daughters either. There have been reports of deaths linked to it, from what I can see those were not conclusive. There has been some information coming out recently that says a booster may need to be given. So what, varicella has a booster, as do many of our other vaccinations. That doesn’t stop us from giving them to our children. Also, the argument that it doesn’t protect all strains doesn’t work for me. Again, so what. If you could protect your child from those strains why wouldn’t you? From the research I have done, which has primarily been in medical journals, I don’t see many reasons not to give this vaccine. I don’t think it makes our daughters more promiscuous, and if it does as parents we have somehow dropped the ball. We need our kids to know that there are plenty of other STD’s they can get. Also as a side note, about a year ago they began recommending that young men also be vaccinated. As a parent of a son as well as two daughters, he too was vaccinated.

  9. Jessica – Thank you for writing about an issue that still does not have the attention it deserves. The issue you’re discussing is one of whether or not to vaccinate girls for HPV, and the answer is an obvious yes (or at least research options) – unless of course buy into the fear fueled bogus morality debate. According to the the CDC “Most men who get HPV (of any type) never develop any symptoms or health problems”.

    Ten years ago when no one bothered to talk to women (or men) about this virus, my friend developed cancer from it and had part of her cervix removed. We were both terrified and she was incredibly ashamed that she got CANCER from an STD. When the OB told her that a full 50% of men are carriers and most will never know because they don’t develop symptoms- I knew immediately that this issue was not getting it’s due publicity because it mostly affected SEXUALLY ACTIVE WOMEN. Men – I’m not mad atcha 🙂 You were short changed too! The men I know don’t want to carry a virus that could end in cancer for their partners.

    Let’s give women and men a little more credit than we do for wanting to take responsibility for their own sexual health and EDUCATE THEM.

  10. While I don’t have a daughter at that age yet, my son is. This summer he received his vaccinations and this was one offered. Only 11 at the time, I declined…for now. It’s definitely something that I feel is important for boys and girls alike, but I want to wait a few years, like when he goes to high school.

  11. So, in summary…anyone who exercises caution regarding these two VERY new vaccines (one brand came out in 2006, the other in 2009) is doing so because they are simple-minded, bogged down with fear and/or a bogus morality, slack-jawed enough to assume that the vaccine would cause their children to become “slutty,” or perhaps just a garden-variety child abuser.

    Never mind that the CDC site states that currently the data on adverse events of these to vaccinations is only corollary, that there isn’t enough data to extrapolate causation. Never mind that JAMA has expressed concerns over some side effects such as blood clotting, and that other professional sources indicate that the rate of serious adverse events from the vaccine may be greater than the incidence of cervical cancer itself…and medical interventions are always about the cost-benefit ratio.

    I’m not sure if my daughter will receive the vaccination when she is of age…but rest assured that when I make the decision, I won’t be concerned about appearing “narrow minded” if I don’t.

  12. I won’t wade into the vax/anti-vax part of this debate except to say that the comment posted by ‘Rachel’ is a little suspect. Do you get paid to post attacks like that every time there is a vaccine-related blog post ‘Rachel’ ?

    Anyway, I can only hope I’ll be honest with my son when he is of age and not make important decisions based on my discomfort with his sexuality. Also, researching the pros and cons of vaccines is responsible parenting.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.