HPV vaccine: a Christian parent has concerns (part 3)

© Dr. Michael D. Jacobson, D.O. Do not reproduce this article without permission.

From the February 2019 issue of Heartfelt Magazine.

To summarize the major points from part 1 and part 2 of this series:

  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in America.
  • Over 90 percent of HPV infections are eliminated by a healthy immune system.
  • However, for those who do not eliminate it, many have no symptoms and may carry the infection for years before discovering it.
  • Certain strains are known to cause genital warts, cancer and other ailments.
  • Since cervical cancer is silent in its early stages, routine Papanicolaou (“Pap”) smears, recommended for women ages 21 to 65, have cut the incidence of cervical cancer by about 75 percent.
  • Though the CDC and many other medical organizations strongly endorse the use of HPV vaccines, other groups and professionals have legitimate concerns about its safety and efficacy.


Official recommendations

The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends the HPV vaccination for:

  • Male and female children between 11 and 12 years of age; it can be administered as early as age 9.
  • Children under age 15 receive a two-dose series and those over 15 receive a three-dose series (younger vaccine recipients generate higher antibody levels and require less immunization).
  • Catch-up vaccinations for those not immunized between ages 15 and 26.


Professional opinion

My opinion on the HPV vaccine still remains on the fence. It was initially a CHM member’s letter that inspired me to study this issue in more depth and there seems to be reliable, yet limited information for both “sides.”

I agree with Dr. Clayton Young: it will take several more years to tell whether the HPV vaccine actually reduces the incidence of cervical cancer and genital warts. I was also intrigued by the reports of adverse reactions reported to the Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting (VAERS) databank. (Editor’s note: See the references section at the end of this article for information about Dr. Clayton Young.)

Conversely, I also recognize the facts in favor of vaccination:

  • HPV infection is extremely common.
  • Even if a person chooses to be abstinent before marriage there is still risk of infection.
  • The risks of vaccination appear to be very small.
  • After personally caring for young women with advanced cervical cancer, I can attest that cancer of the cervix silently strikes the young, is malicious and is often fatal.


Personal opinion

Knowing the facts, if I were asked if I would vaccinate my own children, my answer would be “maybe.” The evidence for each side is both limited and compelling.

Some parents have expressed concerns that vaccinating their children will encourage sexual promiscuity; however, there are several studies that don’t support this concern. Many Christians and pro-family ministries opposed to policies that force parents to vaccinate their children, support the widespread advancement of the HPV vaccination.

Whether you choose to vaccinate your children against HPV, I strongly recommend routine Pap smears for all women upon reaching age 21. Furthermore, while I empathize with parental concerns, I would not rely on the threat of HPV infection to motivate children to moral purity. Rather, the Word of God, the work of the Holy Spirit and a nurturing discipleship relationship are far more effective in encouraging responsible, Christ-like behavior.

References

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Disease and Vaccine Information. National Vaccine Information Center. 2018. https://www.nvic.org/Vaccines-and-Diseases/HPV.aspx

Human Papillomavirus Infection. The College of Physicians of Philadelphia. January 25, 2018. https://www.historyofvaccines.org/content/articles/human-papillomavirus-infection

Human Papilloma Virus: What is HPV? Questions and Answers. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). August 23, 2018. https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html

The HPV vaccine. Cancer Council Australia. September 23, 2018. http://www.hpvvaccine.org.au/the-hpv-vaccine/vaccine-background.aspx

HPV Vaccine Safety. National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). September 30, 2015. https://www.cdc.gov/hpv/parents/questions-answers.html

Robinson, Bruce A., 2012 to 2014: Studies show vaccinated girls do not become promiscuous. Webmaster’s comments. 2013 CDC report on vaccine effectiveness. Religious Tolerance. September 25, 2016. https://www.religioustolerance.org/ccvaccine5.htm

White, Mark D., Pros, cons, and ethics of HPV vaccine in teens—Why such controversy? Translational Andrology and Urology 3 (4):429-434. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2223-4683.2014.11.02.

Young, Clayton, OBGYN Against ACIP HPV Vaccine Decision. PROVE (Parents Requesting Open Vaccine Education). 2018. https://www.healthychild.com/objections-to-gardasil-hpv-vaccine/

©2019 Christian Healthcare Ministries. All rights reserved.