Here are the Facts on the HPV Vaccine Mandate
Earlier this month, State Rep. Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston) introduced a bill in the Illinois House that would require all students in public, private, and parochial schools to receive a human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine before entering sixth grade and to complete the series before entering ninth grade. The vaccination (brand name Gardasil, manufacturer Merck Pharmaceuticals) consists of a series of 2-3 shots, depending on the age of the child. We’re already used to vaccination requirements for schoolchildren. Is this one additional requirement a good idea?
The Medical Facts of HPV:
- Genital HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It is transmitted through skin-to-skin genital contact. Both males and females can be infected.
- There is no treatment or cure, and condoms provide little to no protection against it.
- Most people who are sexually active will have it at some time in their lives, often without knowing it. It often goes away on its own without causing any serious health problems.
- Approximately 14 million new HPV infections occur in the U.S. every year. About half of these are in 15- to 24-year-olds. For a female, the younger she is when she becomes sexually active, the more susceptible she is to infection and to subsequent development of cancerous changes if infected. This has to do with the way the skin over the cervix strengthens as it matures.
- There are more than 150 types of HPV. Nine of them are associated with high risk diseases. Those high risks diseases include cervical, anal, penile, oropharynx (mouth and throat), vaginal, and vulvar cancers.
- The Gardasil 9 vaccine, according to its website, “helps protect against” these nine types. (Notice that weasel word, “helps” – there is no guarantee, and data on the vaccine only goes back ten years.) Gardasil 9 does not protect against all the HPV strains associated with cancer.
- The CDC recommends children be vaccinated, starting at about age 11-12.
- The surest way to prevent HPV is to save sex for marriage and then keep it inside marriage.
A Pediatrician’s Advice on HPV Vaccination:
Now for a medical opinion. A mother of four, Dr. Meg Meeker practiced pediatric and adolescent medicine for more than thirty years. She says the vaccine appears to be safe so far as is known (but do your own research – ten years is a short data history, epidemiologically). Here is what she wrote in 2011, soon after the American Academy of Pediatrics added the recommendation that boys be vaccinated as well as girls:
Concerning the message that giving Gardasil to kids gives them the “green light” to be sexually active, I disagree. I think that when properly administered, the vaccine should be used to teach kids that sex is very serious stuff, that sex causes cancer when mistreated and that Gardasil doesn’t cover all HPV strains.
Here’s what I do in my office. When girls and boys are in the sixth or seventh, I begin to chat with them about what their friends are doing, specifically when it comes to sex and drugs. (The quickest way to find out what a child is doing is to find out what his/her friends are doing.) I ask if their friends are having sex and then tell them about the importance of avoiding sex. If they are open and comfortable, I talk with them about the fact that there are serious emotional and physical consequences to having sex. I ask if they know what Gardasil is and if so why doctors give it to kids. Then, I tell them what HPV is and why Gardasil (sadly) is needed in this day and age. In other words, I use Gardasil as a means to start very important conversations.
In a subsequent post, she gave some added advice:
I give young people the vaccine but with a few conditions. First, I don’t give it until they are ready to understand what it’s for and how to prevent getting infected (abstinence.) Then, I talk to them about being abstinent. Finally, for teens who tell me that they absolutely won’t have sex until they are married (and many will abstain until they are married) I tell them that they can still become infected if their spouse has been sexually active before they met. I have had patients who are virgins when they marry but become infected by their spouses. That’s why I give vaccines to teens who are virgins – I don’t want HPV to cause cancer or trouble in their marriages.
So, the general public health consensus is, the vaccine is believed to be safe and is being recommended for preventive health. And a trusted, Christian pediatrician-mom advises administering it when children are ready to engage in a discussion about what it is and why it’s being recommended, which includes beginning a healthy conversation about sexuality. So far so good.
Now, for the Politics of HPV Vaccination:
There are two ways to look at this bill. One could read it as a well-meaning public-health initiative to protect children from the consequences of early sexual activity. Likely, some well-meaning voters, particularly those inclined to trust their government, will see it that way. The other way to see this is that it is yet another intrusive political move to sexualize children – with or without their parents’ consent.
I think there are good reasons to treat this move as the latter. Remember, HPV is an STD. It is transmitted by sexual contact. It is not airborne, it is not foodborne, and it has been linked to throat and mouth cancers only in connection with oral sex. Schoolchildren are not at higher risk of getting HPV just by being in a classroom with someone who has it. This alone nullifies any reason for making it a condition of enrollment in school. Furthermore, the fact that the bill requires HPV vaccination for private and parochial schools virtually smacks of government operatives sticking their finger in the eye of families who’ve opted out of their school system.
Here’s what this amounts to. Rep. Gabel and her cohorts are arrogating unto themselves the authority to make a personal, medical decision for every schoolchild in the state of Illinois. This is a brazenly bald usurpation of parents’ rights. It is also a violation of children in that it enforces a medical intervention on every schoolchild without allowing the child any say in the matter. The fact that the intervention is sexuality related only makes it more egregious and intrusive.
It is one thing to ask, Is HPV vaccination medically advisable? It is a whole other thing to ask, Should it be mandated by government fiat? Illinois State Rep. Gabel has one daughter. She is free to make the HPV decision she deems best for her own child. Let her and her cohorts leave other parents likewise free to make their own choices in consultation with their children and their children’s doctor. As they say in other medical contexts, let this decision be one that stays between patients their doctors.
Take ACTION: Click HERE to send a message to your state representative to let him or her know that you object to political officials usurping parental rights, especially on medical issues. This is an issue that should be between parents and their pediatrician. Public officials have no moral authority mandating controversial health treatments. Ask him/her to vote against HB 4870 if comes up for a vote.
IFI is hosting our annual Worldview Conference on March 7th at the Village Church of Barrington. This year’s conference is titled “Thinking Biblically About Our Corrosive Culture” and features Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Rob Gagnon. For more information, please click HERE for a flyer or click the button below to register for the conference.