Our Children First, Please!

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Rarely in sciences has the evidence been as univocal as in the case of human papillomavirus (HPV) infections and their role in cancer development. More than 10,000 cancers each year are causally linked to HPV infections each year in the US alone. Similarly rare, there is strong consensus on the effectiveness of HPV vaccines in preventing infections and cancers.

The Vaccine Safety Datalink found no statistically significant increase in risk for any serious condition in over 600,000 cases studied, providing considerable evidence that the vaccines are safe. Accordingly, most state legislatures recommend routine vaccination of girls entering 6th grade.

Despite all measures, however, vaccination rates continue to be less than 50%, leaving half of our teenage girls unprotected. It is clear that only a vaccine mandate will lead to close to 100% vaccination rates but there is resistance from several advocacy groups which are concerned about the government making decisions on behalf of parents or would rather promoting sexual abstinence as an alternative to vaccination.

While I respect those concerns, we should do what is in the best interest of our children, not what matches our personal believes. It is clear that most teenagers will have sexual contacts and that unless we mandate routine vaccination, many will contract HPV and some will die from HPV induced cancer. Nobody wants this to happen. We should accept the HPV vaccine like we accept measles, diphtheria and tetanus vaccines and agree to a vaccination mandate for the protection of our children.

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6 Responses to “Our Children First, Please!”

  1. atate4 Says:

    I fully agree. CDC recommends Gardasil for all boys aged 11 or 12 years, and for males aged 13 through 21 years. What are your thought about require it for boys?

  2. Armin Zadeh Says:

    Thank you for your comment. Yes, I am in favor of requiring it for boys also. I figured that the case for preventing cancer is much stronger in girls, so it may be easier to break resistance with mandating the vaccine for girls. Once that has been accomplished, I’d push for mandating it for boys, too. Since there is so much controversy on this topic, I was trying to leave as little room for arguments as possible for the first round.

  3. stallingss Says:

    Such a good point. I think people want to believe their children will not be sexually active and/or will practice safe sex methods, but it really is just naive, and more than anything- if we have a method to help provide additional protection, why not use it. Its still boggles my mind how many people do not get vaccinated…even with things as simple as the flu vaccine.

  4. mmahmood2 Says:

    Thanks for this interesting post. Preventing HPV and cervical cancer is an important public health issue, it is unfortunate that it has been politicized. Making sure parents have accurate and objective data on the prevalence and potential complications of HPV infection is essential to improving the uptake of the vaccine.

  5. hopkinssbfstudent Says:

    I think this decision is more than just being politicized as the history behind the earliest vaccination campaigns created a negative baseline as many of the first programs were implemented forcefully and not adequately monitored for safety. I think parents generally want whats best for their children, but want the option to choose what that method is, and maybe that is promoting safe sex, although it maybe a naive choice. With a disease like cervical cancer that is caused by many factors and takes time to develop, its harder to see the immediate need for vaccination, which is another issue i think parents struggle with.

  6. Armin Zadeh Says:

    Thank you for your comment. Every parent thinks he/she is doing the best for her/his child. The problem is that if we leave it up to the parents -as we do now – many children are left unprotected which not only endangers them but also others. HPV infections are extremely common and not only cause cervical cancer but also other urogenital cancers, warts, and potentially other diseases. Thus, there is indeed an immediate need for vaccination given the low risk and significant benefit. Promoting safe sex is extremely important and should not be replaced by vaccinations. They go together for synergistic protection. It is difficult for parents to be realistic on the sexual activity of their children. That’s why it is good to have programs that protect children when parents struggle to recognize what’s in the child’s best interest.

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