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.