HPV vaccine: a Christian parent has concerns (part 1)
© Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, D.O. Do not reproduce this article without permission.
A CHM member wrote:
I have never opposed vaccines recommended for my children. My parents, too, made sure I received them and I always felt having the vaccines was worthwhile since they decrease the risk of contracting the diseases they protect against.
Now that my children are in the teen and tween years, we’ve been introduced to the HPV vaccine as a means to protect them from some cancers caused by sexually transmitted infections. Of course I want to do everything I can to protect my children from cancer, but I must say that my comfort level with this vaccine has me opposing its injection into my children.
Drug companies will of course back and push their product and I think sometimes the FDA just tells us what they want us to hear. There have been many adverse reactions to this vaccine. It therefore seems the risk of abnormal side effects—which can change the recipient’s quality of life—outweighs the vaccine’s benefits. The safety studies of this vaccine have left room for bias judgment and have not been concluded for long-term intervals. In the end, it only covers a few strands of HPV infections while the rest clear up on their own without any vaccine.
And, like HIV, this disease spreads primarily through sexual practices that could have been avoided by following Christian principles. I cannot in good faith feel comfortable giving this to my children until it has been in the marketplace for a while or studied long enough for me to truly understand how it works and its effects on recipients. My children will have the opportunity to research it and make a mature health decision in the future—when they come of age they’ll still be in the window of opportunity. Right now they agree with my opposition since they are not fans of getting shots!
I know I’m not alone in my concern. Even if the number of adverse reactions are small when compared with the number of benefits, they aren’t “small” or insignificant to parents who have lost their children to disability or death. As a physician, what advice can you give? I don’t want to deny my children, but there is too much controversy for me.
A Concerned Parent
Dr. Jacobson’s (edited) response:
Thank you for your insightful email and question. As a Christian parent I empathize with you. Since I’m also a physician, I think I understand both “sides” and it truly is nearly impossible to reconcile them fully.
HPV (human papillomavirus) is actually a family of somewhere between 100 and 200 similar viruses, of which about 40 are transmitted sexually. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that HPV is the most common sexually-transmitted infection (STI) in the United States.
More than 79 million Americans have already contracted HPV and they are mostly young people (late teens to early 20s). Up to 14 million more infections will occur each year. In fact, the CDC says that any sexually active person under age 26 who has never been vaccinated is “almost certain” to contract HPV.
Furthermore, it’s possible to be infected by someone who shows no signs or symptoms and the virus can remain in a latent state (not manifest itself) for years. This behavior in some cases makes it very difficult to know where, when, and from whom it was contracted.
More than 90 percent of infections go away on their own because the immune system successfully fights them off. However, in some people it lingers and can cause genital warts or cancer. (The types of strains that cause warts are not the same as those that cause cancer.)
The location of cancers caused by HPV are typically genital, with cervical cancer in women being the most notable. Where the virus resides and the type of cancer risk it poses depends on each individual’s lifestyle.
Because it usually takes years for cervical cancer to develop and because it is “silent”—someone who has the cancer in its early stages is completely unaware of its presence—regular Papanicolaou smears are recommended for women ages 21 to 65. The medical community believes that routine “Pap” smears have cut the incidence of cervical cancer by 75 percent.
Read part 2 of this series. (References to be provided at the conclusion of the series.)