Sunday, June 23, 2013

Herd Mentality

Last year, the CDC began to recommend that adolescent boys receive the HPV vaccination in order to protect themselves and their future sexual partners from the human papilloma virus.  HPV causes cervical cancer, a hard to treat and fatal disease, so this is no small deal.  It can cause throat cancer in men; a serious disease that is far more likely than cervical cancer to be detected and treated.  But still, it's cancer and should be avoided.

The CDC made the recommendation to vaccinate boys after noting the degree to which parents of teenage girls were reluctant to vaccinate their daughters.   That some of these parents are driven to avoid the vaccine out of a misguided fear that it would induce their daughters to be sexually active is disturbing.  So the recommendation to vaccinate boys came out specifically because so few girls were being vaccinated.  Men can transmit the disease from one sexual partner to another, but boys were considered secondary recipients of the vaccine when it first came out because vaccinating girls would mostly do the trick.  That is, until parents failed to vaccinate their daughters.

We are talking about a vaccine that will prevent our daughters from getting a fatal cancer.  But American parents are worried that it will provide tacit permission for adolescent sexual activity.  WHAT?  

This past week, the CDC revealed results of a recent study of HPV vaccine that demonstrated that the vaccine is even more successful at preventing cancer than researchers already believed.  Despite this, vaccination rates for adolescent girls remain low.  Toward the end of the summer, JT will have his yearly check-up.  I intend to have him vaccinated for HPV.  In appropriate terms, I will explain to him that when he one day has sex, the vaccine will keep he and his partners from contracting cancer.  The vaccine requires three doses, so we'll need to swing by the physician's office two more times for the follow up inoculations.  I'm hoping that recent CDC recommendations will encourage other parents to do the same.  We have a responsibility to protect the herd, folks.   Shots aren't fun and this one is a mild inconvenience.  But compared to cancer, it's a walk in the park.

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