Vaccines have been a lightning rod of controversy lately. There is a general mistrust of the healthcare industry: everyone from the pharmaceutical brands to the insurance companies, as well as misinformation from bogus studies and research.
So it wasn’t a surprise that the cynics came out against the HPV vaccine when it was released in 2006. Yet, a new battle cry rose up from a different group of doubters. These opponents fretted that, by vaccinating kids against HPV, a sexually transmitted disease, they would have permission to be promiscuous.
The problem with their logic is this: If you deliberately go and step on a rusty nail when your Tetanus shot is up to date, it’s still going to hurt. There will be a wound, and blood and Band-Aids and limping involved.
Granted, sex is more fun than stepping on a nail, but the point is that there are consequences. And while the vaccine can protect teenagers down the line from cancer, it will not safeguard them against the other diseases and responsibilities that can come from sex.
In fact, a recent study out in the journal Pediatrics found that having the HPV vaccine had no effect on the sexual behavior of teenage girls. The study looked at 1,400 girls over three years who received the vaccine when they were 11- to 12- years old. They found no difference in the likelihood of pregnancy, STDs or contraceptive use between those girls with the vaccine and those without.
From their conclusion, it seems that education and good old family values still play a more decisive part in how and when teenagers will have sex.
Which leads to why I’m confused: When there’s a vaccine that can protect a child from HPV, what’s more controversial – dying from a preventable cancer or normal sexual development?