Clash of the Titans XVII: HPV Vaccine

April 27, 2007, 12:00 pm; posted by
Filed under Debate, Job, Tom  | 18 Comments

In this corner, arguing against a standard HPV vaccine, is Job!

And in this corner, arguing for a standard HPV vaccine, is Tom!

I am very much not a father. I am very much not a female. But I do think it is somewhat possible that I might someday father a female and I can guarantee you no government is going to mandatorily vaccinate my adolescent daughter for any sort of sexually transmitted disease, such as the Human Papillomavirus.

The implication is disgusting. While the vaccine appears to be very effective, thorough and well-tested (albeit costly), and while I’m definitely not saying all Gardasil doses should be destroyed and the recipe burned, the notion that the government should go to
such brash, expensive, and heavy-handed means to “vaccinate” poor parenting is audacious, invasive and infuriating.

Currently only one state, Texas, has taken the steps to make such vaccinations mandatory. While the issues raised about Merck’s campaign donations to Gov. Rick Perry are tough to build an argument around, his use of an executive order in favor of legislation requiring all girls entering sixth grade to be vaccinated does show a feeling that public dialogue may not go his way. And when the Texan legislature overruled his order, it further showed that apprehension about such invasion is most certainly there.

I think a far better tack to take would be allowing some competition to ferment, to make HPV vaccines cheaper and more readily acceptable, perhaps even easier and less expensive than pap smears.

What is more, understanding the disease, the manner in which it’s spread and the way it affects the physiology and psychology of women is of far greater benefit to our society than allowing the government to come in and sweep the problem under the rug.

Issues as personal as sexuality and children should always be handled delicately and with broad dialogue — never with executive orders that imply an urgency that suspects parents don’t already worry enough. Offer the vaccines, sure. Mandate them?

Over my dead body.

This shouldn’t be a debate over the actual use of the HPV vaccine. Its spread might be linked to the grinning, busted-up specter of promiscuity enjoying belle-of-the-ball status throughout most of the western “romantic” world, but few would say nothing should be done to stop the single largest cause of cervical cancer. Instead, my focus is bringing the vaccine into the standard arsenal of vaccinations.

Should a child get a vaccine their parents don’t want? There’s a difference between “standard” and “mandatory” vaccination. Your child won’t be denied access to preschool because she wasn’t immunized against HPV. Then there’s Job’s position — it should be available on request, but not suggested as a matter of course. When was the last time your co-worker was out for a few weeks with a nasty case of measles, mumps, or polio? Never — because of the vaccines that have rendered most individuals immune to them. They don’t merely keep individuals from getting sick, but prevent disease from spreading throughout a population. Since HPV is often asymptomatic in men, this makes it more important for women to be immunized, as a matter of course if the parents do not object.

There are moral implications to women getting these vaccinations before puberty. But when you travel to the third world, you don’t start vaccinations when you’re hip-deep in mosquitos. You get the shots well before you need them, to develop a sufficient immune response. Vaccines are useless for someone already infected, so it’s best to give the shots when they have the best chance to be effective. Will it make the country more promiscuous? How could it get any worse? And how many kids know what MMR or DTaP (two current vaccines) stand for? All the kid has to know is she’s getting a shot to keep her from getting sick, and if she’s good, she’ll get a lollipop.

HPV has been strongly linked to cervical cancer; even in women who approach sex the right way, its widespread nature makes it a threat — from rape, a husband’s past, or infidelity. We owe it to ourselves and our children’s children to try to stop it.



18 Comments to “Clash of the Titans XVII: HPV Vaccine”

  1. Rose on April 27th, 2007 3:31 pm

    I absolutely hate the idea that the HPV may become mandatory or standard. I understand that it is effective at what it does, but HPV is completely preventable in its own right. And Tommy, I know that as a science-freak all you see is a disease that can be prevented by taking this drug, but it means much more for the girls who are being told to take it. I’m refusing to get it because I absolutely do not need a vaccination for an STD. Furthermore as a (Lord willing) future mother of a sixth grade girl, I want the right to refuse the vaccine for my baby girl. I understand what you’re saying about how kids do not know what the vaccine is for, but I will know. I feel as though the doctors are saying, “Sure you say that your little girl isn’t going to sleep around, but we know better. And we want to give her that option, free of consequences.”

    While we’re on the subject, I HATE those commercials for Gardasil. Those little girls dancing around and singing about how they are going to be “one less.” I would love that commercial to end with them taking a vow to save themselves for marriage, instead of them getting into line to receive a drug that will allow them to engage in sin without consequences.

  2. Steve on April 27th, 2007 3:39 pm

    Woohoo! This is what I’m looking for!

    Two small points of clarification — Tom declared here that he supports your right to refuse the vaccine for yourself or your future child, and he also identified possibilities (namely rape) where HPV can be acquired absent sin.

  3. MC-B on April 27th, 2007 4:49 pm

    oooo… sorry dear… I’m one of the Tom votes, for the clarifying reasons Steve listed above.

  4. Rose on April 27th, 2007 10:38 pm

    I know, and I read that after I posted. And darling, I’m okay with you siding with Tom, as long as your okay with me refusing it for our future daughter. :-D

  5. Steve on April 28th, 2007 10:15 am

    This thread had become unnecessary and offensive in at least two ways. I have removed it.

  6. Djere on April 29th, 2007 1:36 pm

    Look, the bottom line is that this vaccine prevents disease, period. Not just disease, but cancer. Isn’t this what scientists have been looking for? And now because people on moral high horses think it’s a carte blanche for sin, it’s something to be boycotted?

    Newsflash: people use grace as a carte blanche for sin. If the sin is in their heart, they’ll sin whether they’re vaccinated or not. There are very real consequences for pre- or extra-marital affairs besides disease.

  7. Steve on April 29th, 2007 1:41 pm


  8. Rose on April 29th, 2007 3:26 pm

    It does prevent a disease. A disease that I am in no way at risk of getting. I just do not want to be forced to have to take more medicine into my body. Medicine that I do not need. I don’t have a problem with people getting it, I just want to right to refuse it for myself and for my daughters.

    And I’m sorry if my comments were offensive, I really , really did not mean them to be. I honestly had a good point in my head, but my execution was faulty. I was considering rape as a reason to get the vaccine, but I felt as though God was saying that He’ll protect me from that – so I do not have to worry about it. I should have just said that, and I’m sorry.

  9. Marcus on April 29th, 2007 6:59 pm

    I agree with Rose and Job.

    It is one thing to prevent disease and quite another to tacitly support sexual promiscuity. Incidentally, does anyone know the stats for HPV being passed along in one encounter (e.g., in the case of rape)? Is it something that generally takes multiple exposures or is there a significantly high proportion of virus in the semen that one exposure is all it would (usually) take?

    My philosophy of medication is to allow for anything that does not violate Natural Law. I can take Advil because it restores me to the natural state, I support most surgeries because they return the body to functionality, etc. I generally support vaccines but (as has been mentioned) the HPV vaccine is intended for people who are willfully operating outside of the proper social and religious institution of marriage.

    I can’t reduce this to a pragmatic “we must stamp out cancer where’er it may be found” argument (compelling as that sentiment sounds). To add HPV to the list of standard vaccines is paramount to officially calling extra-marital sex an acceptable social practice. That notion is definitely found in mass culture already, but to make it government policy frightens me. I think it should be the decision of the informed individual and not the state.

  10. Job Tate on April 29th, 2007 9:10 pm

    I think the vaccine is a medical wonder. I support the vaccine entirely. Focus on the Family and other conservative groups praise the vaccine.

    I just don’t, can’t support it being mandatorily thrust upon young women. Airborne diseases, you betcha…
    just not in this instance

  11. Tom on April 29th, 2007 10:56 pm

    I’ve toned down the “heat” of this response three times, so I’m hoping Steve doesn’t feel the need to get rid of this thread again. I apologize to Job that someone had to write a “con” on this issue, and here is my response to those who would have jumped at the chance.

    There are enough eternal consequences to living outside G-d’s will. Personally, I feel none of the compulsion so common among the devotees of the Westboro philosophy to compound the punishment of the unsaved here on earth, nor to help them get to that eternal judgement faster.

    I’m going to do my darndest to keep anyone around long enough to start making the right decisions, and I don’t care whether she’s my daughter, your daughter, some drug addicted prostitute, or the pharisee tearing me a figurative or religious “new one” for “tacitly supporting promiscuity.”

    We didn’t get to see whether the brother ever came around to accept the prodigal. In my way of looking at things, he did.

  12. Rose on April 29th, 2007 11:38 pm

    “I’m going to do my darndest to keep anyone around long enough to start making the right decisions[…]”

    I agree with you 100%. Actually, that is my reason for not supporting the death penalty. Which is something that you support, no? So basically you’re saying that we should save some people from their sin, but others we should condemn to death?

    But really, I am not against other people getting the vaccine. I still do not like making it standard because I just think it is a sad reminder of how far off course our country has become. And I really just wanted a chance to vent about those stupid commercials.

    I really hate those things.

  13. Marcus on April 30th, 2007 7:36 am

    Tom, you make a good point. I believe that we need to help sinners at every turn and seek longevity (especially for sinners who may, as you say, start making the right decisions at any moment).

    I am uneasy, however, adopting a policy that enables the continuation of sin. It feels a bit too much like allowing the sin (of culturally-endorsed promiscuity) so that grace may abound.

    The vaccine is a medical wonder. It should be a personal choice. I am sure that even if the policy gets set in stone, people will be able to opt out by pleading “religious exemption.” This happens every day with standard vaccines.

    I am not saying “let them die in their sin,” I am only saying that the government should not legislate such a hot issue. Educate families on the benefits of the vaccine? Sure. Maybe even subsidize it? OK, fine. Add it to the cocktail that gets injected into children at the public school nurses office as a matter of form? No thank you.

  14. Tom on April 30th, 2007 12:13 pm

    Marcus: I am not suggesting that HPV go the route of the major childhood diseases and become part and parcel to another ubervaccine. I am not suggesting that HPV vaccination become required for school attendance. It would appear the main difference between our positions on this issue is the degree of difficulty we wish to apply to the process of becoming immunized, and the social implications of that difficulty or lack thereof.

    In the first case, since the HPV vaccine is administered in multiple stages, it won’t lend itself well to incorporation with other vaccinations. In addition, it’s well-known name recognition and the visceral response it raises in some of the more entrenched religious circles will make it less likely to be incorporated as well. Finally, the directive to remain in the world but not of the world makes it a small thing for the Christian couple (who will wear their daughter’s susceptibility to HPV as a religious merit badge) to smile primly at their pediatrician and politely but firmly decline the promiscuity vaccine, then depart the office with a small, yet triumphant flame of the pentacost flickering above their finely coiffed hair.

    On the other hand, think how difficult it will be for the girl who, concerned about her risk (however small) of cervical cancer, elects to be immunized against HPV, and it gets out to the above couple’s cherubic daughter who, unlike her more mature parents, cannot help herself from judging others based on the opinions her parents so strongly hold on the vaccine.

    Rose: I don’t feel that my stance on the death penalty has anything to do with my stance on the HPV vaccine, I feel comfortable enough with my position on both to defend them at the same time. While the death penalty and adultery are specifically punishable by death in the Old Testament, in the New Testament the words of Christ arguably specifically retract the latter and arguably specifically affirm the former.

    You’ll also note I specifically said, “I’m going to do my darndest to keep anyone around long enough to start making the right decisions,” and if a condemned murderer isn’t using the lengthy trial, appeal, and retrial that accompanies any capital murder case to consider and repent of his crime, there’s nothing more time can do for him. That period of time, more often measured long enough, as he has little more to do than reflect on his crime.

  15. Karen on April 30th, 2007 9:45 pm

    Until there are also vaccines for AIDS, gonnorhea, chlamydia, etc, unwanted pregnancies and guilt and condemnation all rolled into one – no single vaccine can be accused of promoting premarital sex. There are plenty of other consequences to go around.

    I agree with Tom – shoot the kid up and give them a lollipop. Even the “best” Christians may wander. Even your children. Didn’t David wander? Is that a consequence you want to risk? I don’t support wandering, but it happens “prone to wander, Lord I feel it…prone to leave the God I love”. Or are you secure in saying, sorry honey, you messed up…enjoy your cancer…

  16. Steve on April 30th, 2007 10:11 pm

    But the vaccine doesn’t need to be defended as protection from the consequences of wrongdoing, because it doesn’t discriminate in its infection.

  17. Marcus on May 1st, 2007 7:12 am

    Having re-read the original posts and the comments, I think I may be convinced. I’d been focusing too much on the societal implications and not on the actual individuals affected. I still believe it should be voluntary… but it looks like no one here is arguing that it should be strictly mandetory.

  18. Best of Bweinh! -- HPV Vaccine Clash : Bweinh! on July 27th, 2007 12:02 pm

    […] Originally published on April 27, 2007. […]

Leave a comment!