Who Gets the HPV Vaccine
The HPV Vaccine has been approved for 8 years now. Unfortunately, most parents aren’t prepared for the conversation which should take place with their child when the question of the HPV vaccine comes around. Part of the reason is the HPV vaccine is not mandatory here in the US. It is also now being proposed for boys. While the target age for girls has been 11- 12 years of age.; vaccines are now suggested as early as the age of 9. I recently did an interview about this very subject and it is posted on my media page. HPV is an acronym for the Human Pappilomavirus. HPV is the most commonly transmitted sexual disease. I have researched reports from the CDC, the AMA and several other sources. Those sources have reported anywhere form 40 to 120 variations of HPV. The decision to innoculate your child with an HPV vaccine holds both responsibility as well as opportunity in terms of their future health both sexual and overall.
Having a background in economics, I understand that statistics can be found and used to support just about anything. If you calculate them the right way. Some of the information regarding the driving need and the importance of this vaccine may require additional questioning by some. For instance the instances of cervical cancer used to support the need for the HPV vaccine include data from developing countries which do not have the sophistication or access to gynecological care as we do here in the US.
What is important is that you know there are two different vaccines available. Gardisil® vaccinates against 4 variations of HPV (#6, #11, #16 & #18). Cervarix® on the other hand only primarily protects agains HPV strands #16 & #18. If you are not familiar with the required testing for a vaccination, it may come as a shock to you that they are not tested for long term side effects or viability. This is not just true of these vaccines. The vaccine approval process is a whole other topic for another time. Something very important to note is that Guardisil® has been in use for 8 years and to date has shown that it protects for up to 8 years. This is very important when you think about the fact that these vaccinations are being given to youths as young as 9. These youths may not become sexually active for another ten years. We have no way of knowing until year ten if a booster will be needed or not.
The Decision to Vaccinate Your Child with an HPV Vaccine is a Personal One
While I am an advocate of informed decisions and empowering knowledge. I am not a doctor. However in my research, I did find a fabulous book for parents written by a gynecologist out of NYC by the name of Dr. Shobha S. Krishnan. Her book The HPV Vaccine Controversy: Sex, Cancer, God, and Politics: A Guide for Parents, Women, Men, and Teenagers is a worthy investment if you have no idea where to start or if you are struggling with whether or not to vaccinate your child.
There are lots of factors that go into deciding abut vaccines and your child. Some people are completely opposed to vaccines as a whole. In those cases, this is a no brainer. However, it is just as important for you to talk to your child about safe sex. You will just find another way to discuss what HPV is and it’s affects. If you have vaccinated your child in the past, but now are uneasy about continuing vaccinations or about this vaccination in particular some things you want to consider is your values around sex. The example you set will have a huge impact on your children’s sexual behavior. Not talking about sex or acknowledging that people have sex is not an effective approach. Stressing the importance of self respect and asking questions about a potential partner’s sexual history are difficult to tackle with a 9 year old. Explaining to them that there are diseases that are associated with sexual activity and what is safe sex versus unsafe sex may be a little easier for them to understand.
Important factors you may want to consider when making a decision about the HPV Vaccine are your family history of cervical cancer, as well as adverse side effects of the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has also had reports of adverse side effects in those patients who suffer from celiac Disease. So, if your child has a history of autoimmune issues you may want to take a closer look at some of the warnings for the HPV vaccine around those cases.
Now Let’s Talk About Sex – And Your Children
I get asked questions often from parents about how to talk to their children about sex. The timing of this vaccine is a perfect opportunity to discuss with your child what constitutes sex. Especially since HPV can be transmitted by genital to genital contact and does not require penetration (as in intercourse) for someone to infect their partner. Although the urgency for the HPV Vaccine has been targeted at cervical cancer, other genitalia can be affected. The throat can also be infected if oral favors are part of sexual play.
As an expert, I often have to ask parents “How do you define sex?” Until they have a perspective on their own definition, it is hard to give them guidance about talking to their child. Once we have jumped that hurdle then the answer is as individual as the famaily and the child.
If you have never talked about sex with your child, the hurdle is much higher and the conversation is much different than if you have been using proper terminology and positive dialogue about sex and sexuality since your child’s toddler years. There are lots of places to look in everyday life to bring up the topic. The media uses sex all the time in advertising. So just watching TV with your child and waiting for a commercial that uses sex is one way. There is also the Bible which has all kinds of references to sexual behavior both good and bad. Another great place with younger children is at a zoo or a farm. Animals are a great way to talk objectively about reproduction. From reproduction you can transition to talking about sexuality.
The most important thing to remember when talking to your teens is to make it non-accusatory and more about wanting the best for them. Making a decision regarding the HPV vaccine can open an opportunity for dialogue if you have not talked about sexual activity in the past. This is such an important time in their life.
Please feel free to share comments on how you have talked to your child successfully about sex below. It can help other parents!
For questions about talking to your child about sex or the HPV Vaccine comment below or contact me at:
thepassionprofessor @ patriciamooneyham.com
The Passion Professor