HPV vaccine: let kids be part of the conversation

Katie Leibel
Staff Writer

On Monday, I wrote about my opinion regarding parents making major decisions for their teenagers and the negative impacts this can have on the child. I touched on the topic of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine known as Gardasil, and today I decided to delve more deeply into the topic and do some digging as to why people refuse to give their children this vaccine.

My opinion is that unless the child is allergic to this vaccine, they ought to have it. The most common complaint that parents have with allowing their child to be given this vaccine is that it prevents against an STI.

To many, this was seen as a way of encouraging children to have sex at an early age. In my last article, I said that I did not believe that this was the message being sent to the child, and I still believe that.

First, if a child were to receive this vaccine after having a conversation with their parents on what it prevents against, I believe that they would have a more trusting and open relationship. Second, although this vaccine prevents against several dangerous HPV strains, it does not prevent against all of them, or any other STI outside of HPV for that matter.

Lastly, I think that we ought to give children this vaccine because if one were not to give it to them, and they were to come down with one of these deadly cases, it sends an array of awful messages.

It sends the message that you only care about their health if the child obeys you. It sends the message that although you could have prevented this, you refused to. It sends the message that you were willing to allow them to get sick or die because this made you uncomfortable.

After reading the stories of multiple cancer survivors that did not receive the Gardasil vaccine because their parents refused to allow it to be administered, I learned that these were the messages that they felt were sent to them. The relationships between the parents and the individuals impacted by this HPV-caused cancer were often weakened or completely broken.

According to the Center for Disease Control’s website, the best time to give an individual this vaccine is between the ages of 9 and 14. It is able to be administered between the ages of 15 and 26 but is significantly less effective.

“There are two reasons to vaccinate at this age,” according to NPR.org. “First, there’s a more effective immune response if it is given in early adolescence. And second: ‘It works best if given before any sexual exposure.’”

Because of these reasons, the vaccine cannot wait. I believe in an open and understanding relationship between parents and their children. Although no one wants to think that their little angels are going to go out and disobey their parents, it happens.

The CDC’s website also encourages an open and educational conversation with children and teenagers regarding STIs, risks associated with them and prevention methods. Although I could not find an accurate statistic for the number of sexual partners someone has in a lifetime, numbers on multiple websites ranged from 4 to 8.

The numbers do not lie. If we can prevent someone’s suffering or death, why wouldn’t we? If a parent could prevent their child’s suffering or death, why wouldn’t they? We should not let the fear of an awkward conversation or an uncomfortable encounter deter us from protecting the ones we love.

Whether a parent thinks that their child will be at risk for this disease or not, they should give their child this vaccination. The child is their own person and will do what they want. I think it is sick to believe that not allowing them to be given this vaccine will deter or control them.

I am writing this article because according to the CDC’s website, April is STD awareness month. It is a hard topic to talk about, especially with the ones you love, but if you care about them you should. I believe that the conversation about this vaccine needs to happen. It could save someone’s life.

Photo: (CC BY-ND 2.0 by Pan American Health Organization PAHO)

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