Amid the recent dust up of the controversy of HPV (human papillomavirus) and mandating young girls to receive the vaccine, I’ve been wondering what my reaction will be when I’m faced with this looming decision. My older girl is now a few months from turning 4. Eleven isn’t that far away.
Let me back up and say I’m an advocate of vaccinating our children in general. I think that science has proven to be an effective combatant against many illnesses that have, in the past, been invincible. Until vaccines came along and walloped them. Like polio and pneumonia.
And yet there are risks. Definite risks. In my mind, the risks of not vaccinating my children thus far have out weighed the potential risks that vaccines themselves may carry. I’ve read about, and written about, many of the pros and cons of vaccinating. Remember the hubbub for the last few years over the whole H1N1 vaccine? I waded through many an argument for and against and ultimately got myself and my girls vaccinated.
But to me, vaccinating against HPV is different. Somehow, in my own mind and in the minds of many other parents, putting ‘vaccine for cervical cancer’, ‘sexually active’ and ’11 year old girls’ in the same sentence makes me squeamish. Yes, it is a miracle of science to have a vaccine – any vaccine – against cancer. Haven’t we all been hoping for this? And while vaccinating against a sexually transmitted disease before a young person becomes sexually active seems right on paper…is it in reality? It’s a hard pill to swallow.
First off, let me just say that MY kid won’t have sex until she’s good and married to Mr. Right, and even then I don’t want to know about her having sex.
As a mom, I want to protect her from any and all harm. Of course I do. That’s why we moms have such grey hair – it’s all that worry about protecting our children.
Also, I’m not a Puritan. Yes I get weirded out about my girls being sexually active in their lifetime, but seriously, I’m only joking. Sexual pleasure is lovely. It’s indescribable. I’m hoping that, when my time comes to have the birds and the bees talk, I’ll impart wisdom. I’ll inspire my girls to ALWAYS keep their bodies safe. Use their heads. Make good decisions.
But I’m not so naive to think that I can talk my girls away from sexually transmitted diseases. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Is it my responsibility as a mom to not only talk the talk but walk the walk? If I tell them to keep their bodies safe and this vaccine keeps their bodies safe, then why would I choose not to?
And therein lies my personal dilemma. I don’t know, on balance, what risks weigh heavier on the scale: STD + cervical cancer or complications from the vaccine? Deciding for my daughters versus my daughters deciding for themselves?
I certainly know that I’m no fan of having a mandate from the government, where this debate is currently swirling. But that aside, I think as a mom of a soon (too soon!) to be teenager, I need to get comfortable understanding this decision, the pros and cons and ultimately the risks.
If you have girls do you plan on having them vaccinated against HPV?
photo credit: Dawn Huczek