Why All Boys & Girls Should Be Vaccinated for HPV.

Via Jennifer S. White
on Sep 3, 2013
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HPV vaccination

Why you should consider vaccinating your children for HPV

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a common virus that spreads through sexual contact, and because of this, controversy surrounds the HPV vaccinations.

Because God forbid that anyone’s child have sex—that never happens.

Okay, let’s take virginity off the table for a moment, if only to look at a few startling facts and statistics about HPV and the vaccines that could prevent its spread.

There are about 40 different types of HPV.

Some are directly linked to causing cervical cancer as well as other forms of cancers like head and neck, while other types of HPV cause genital warts in both males and females.

“High-risk HPV accounts for approximately 5 percent of all cancers worldwide,” and most “high-risk HPVs occur without any symptoms.”

Additionally, “high-risk HPVs cause virtually all cervical cancers—and with a three-dose vaccine the most common types of HPV can be completely prevented.  

Yet, even though HPV could join the ranks of other deadly or life-altering viruses that have been largely or entirely wiped out by the vaccination process, some parents are still hesitant to address this issue with their kids.

And contrary to popular belief, HPV doesn’t just affect your sexually-active girls either.

Both straight and gay men can transmit and contract HPV and genital infection isn’t limited to just the penis, but also to the rectum and scrotum.

Essentially, no matter who you’re having sex with, you need to be protected because you’re at risk—and why worry if our kids are virgins, gay or straight? It becomes a non-issue when we vaccinate all children.

Perhaps the biggest consideration that has been brought up as a potential reason why some parents choose not to vaccinate is this vaccine’s cost—which, if we’re being honest, is a very real concern.

Some—but not all—insurance companies will cover the fairly expensive cost (each dose can run up to $170). However, there are programs to help those without insurance at little to no cost. (Check out this Planned Parenthood link.) 

At the same time, though, if cost is a genuine concern for you then you may want to weigh in how expensive radiation treatments for cancer are.

And although I can fully understand how basically no one wants to imagine their kids having sex, it’s part of real life and part of parenting.

You can talk to your children about abstinence, but that doesn’t mean that they will choose it.

So why wouldn’t parents want to vaccinate their children?

If you’re looking for an article, or an author, that will argue with you about the general controversy surrounding whether or not to vaccinate your children for anything, you’ll be disappointed.

This article isn’t about that because, quite frankly, it’s an article-worthy subject all by itself—and it’s not my main concern.

The reality is that most of us do vaccinate our kids

My daughter will never have to go through the itchy, summer-destroying, stuck-in-the-house-while-every-one-else-plays-and-swims-outside chicken pox—and why shouldn’t HPV also be something that she doesn’t have to worry about?

The entire reason that I wrote this and am bringing this to your attention is simply to get this conversation started.

Let’s put vaccinating all boys and girls for HPV on the table, and make it something that’s brought up with your pediatrician and your child’s school.

Let’s not single out children, expecting them to be virgins or heterosexual. Instead, let’s make this less of a problem for all of them by encouraging it for everyone.

There are two HPV vaccines, Gardasil and Ceravix. (Read more about them and their differences and usages here.)

So remember to ask your child’s physician during his or her next check-up to provide you with any other, more specific information that you might have questions or concerns about.

With a new school year beginning, vaccinations are something that most parents are dealing with anyways, and all children ages 11 and 12 are considered prime candidates for the HPV vaccine.

For more information check out the links within this article or talk with your doctor.


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Ed: Bryonie Wise




About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She's also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.


28 Responses to “Why All Boys & Girls Should Be Vaccinated for HPV.”

  1. bringingyouohm says:

    Well, a few reasons not to vaccinate everyone might include that the lead on the team that created Gardasil publicly stated that the benefits don't seem to outweigh the risks.
    She says "with the use of Gardasil, there will be no decrease in cervical cancer until at least 70% of the population is vaccinated, and in that case, the decrease will be very minimal. The highest amount of minimal decrease will appear in 60 years.”

    She said she confessed all this so she could sleep at night…

  2. Thanks for this. My resistance to the idea hasn't been because I'd promote abstinence in its place, but because it concerns me that teens might get the idea that since they are vaccinated, taking other measures towards safer sex aren't necessary. (i.e. hey, I'm vaccinated so I don't need to worry about a condom.) Condom use is already widely on the decline and AIDS isn't making headlines much anymore, but STIs and HIV are still a big problem. Hopefully this will be part of the solution.

  3. The main point of this article is that this should be a required shot/vaccine for schools like many others so that over 70% of the population is vaccinated (and one of the links shares vaccination records and percentages by state).

  4. And HIV makes you more likely to be high-risk for HPV complications too. I agree, Kate. I think that's why it's also important to educate that between these two vaccines the high-risk HPV types are included, but not all HPV types—there are still reasons to promote safe sex!

  5. Additionally here is the very disturbing and biased conclusion of the article that you shared, and I quote:

    "After all, the proponents of sexual liberation are determined not to let mere disease—or even death—stand in the way of their pleasures. They believe that there must be technological solutions to the diseases that have arisen from their relentless promotion of promiscuity. After all, the alternative is too horrible to contemplate: They might have to learn to control their appetites. And they might have to teach abstinence."

    Promoting abstinence as disease control and promoting fear of research and science is not helpful for our society.

  6. C.F. says:

    The article sounds interesting and good IF these vaccines weren't associated with harmful or even lethal side effects.These is yet another trend the vaccine industry is trying to profit from. One, these vaccines do not protect from most types of HPV and second, as mentioned before, is has harmful effects. A lot of girls have died from this. Websites like http://www.mercola.com or http://www.hsionline.com discuss this in detail.

  7. Hi, readers. Food for thought. Read the commentary below this NPR article as it states some good points with respect to the "Dr. Harper controversy."

    As well as this blog if this is a concern that you have, because it summarizes a lot of helpful information:

  8. SaraCrolick says:

    Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for bringing this topic to elephant—I think there needs to be more healthy, honest and, most importantly, respectful discussion around such a hot-button topic.

    I can't stand behind your position on this one, unfortunately; instead, I can stand beside you and open a dialogue. That's not to say I don't respect your decision to vaccinate your lovely lady, but I was injured by this particular vaccine.

    I received the shot series in my early twenties because I was told it would be wise prevention. Within weeks of receiving the third shot in the series, I began to develop debilitating symptoms that included muscle aches, symmetrical limb pain, muscle fatigue when exerting myself, general fatigue, headache, and weakness (among others).

    Over the next few months I saw specialists, had an obscene about of tests run, provided hundreds of vials of blood to lab techs and continued to suffer. I've now been diagnosed with lupus, an incurable auto-immune disease, and it has—without a doubt—ruined that beautiful quality of life I knew before I went through with the shot series.

    I had to stop my work as a massage therapist because my hands are too weak to work, I can't always carry my children around, I have difficulty breathing because my pericardium, lungs and intercostal muscles become inflamed some days, I writhe in pain at night because my nervous system is in complete overdrive. I have some good days, but many terrible days… I deal with searing pain on a regular basis seven years later.

    And although "there are about 40 different types of HPV" as you noted, the vaccine only protects against four strains (6, 11, 16 & 18). And this particular vaccine did not have the full FDA trial that it was supposed to—the trial was expedited to bring it to market faster. This decision to shave years off of the trial did not allow enough time to establish the safety or risks of the vaccine <a href="http://(http://www.nvic.org/nvic-archives/pressrelease/gardasilgirls.aspx)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.nvic.org/nvic-archives/pressrelease/gardasilgirls.aspx).

    This is a personal choice, in my mind. Which is fine. It breaks my heart to see story after story surface of young girls having severe reactions <a href="http://(http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/24/hpv-vaccine-victim-sues-merck.aspx)” target=”_blank”>(http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/24/hpv-vaccine-victim-sues-merck.aspx) to this particular vaccine, but I know that there are plenty of people that do not have reactions. The cards fall in their favor, which is a wonderful thing, I just wasn't so lucky.

    As far as silver linings are concerned, I feel as though my struggles were not in vain. I wish I could be free of this debilitating disease, but I am not. So I move forward with the knowledge and the strength to respectfully decline this vaccine for my boys. This is my main concern now, protecting them because it is my right as a parent to do so.

    I do not agree with making this a mandatory component of a vaccine schedule. If parents decide they are comfortable with this for their children, by all means, move forward. I can't imagine the horror of having a mandatory shot ruin the life of my innocent child, that needs to be a decision for me and my man.

    Only two months ago Japan withdrew their recommendation for this shot until more studies could be done <a href="http://(http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806645)” target=”_blank”>(http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/806645). In short, too many young girls were reporting adverse reactions and the Japanese government couldn't mandatorily enforce the shot. If parents still request it, it can be administered, but the government (for now) is not recommending the series.

    All that being said, I adore you, Jennifer, as well as your words and your perspective on most things. I appreciate your mindfulness in handling this topic. Thank you for initiating such an important topic.

  9. Carolyn Riker says:

    Thank you for sharing this Sara. I'm really sorry what happened to you. I've read similar studies and strongly urge this vaccine not to be mandatory. Our pediatrician was sly and spoke to my kids individually to convince them I was wrong. I didn't argue with her at the doctor's office. It was inappropriate but when I got home I shared some of the research and my reasoning with my kids. We had an amazing conversation that opened up other conversations. Thank you again for your honesty and courage to share the flipside. I'm not against most vaccines. I promote them. This one I disagree with the. Jennifer thank you very much for sharing your opinion and providing a space to share multiple sides.

  10. yogamonkey says:

    Actually, in most states, vaccination is NOT required for school. All states allow for medical exemptions and most allow for religious and philosophical exemptions as well.

  11. 4simpleliving says:

    Gardasil doesn't work. They're own researchers have said this.

  12. Kat Peters says:

    I WORK in public health and I will NOT let my daughter get that vaccination. Furthermore a good friend of mine at the CDC lobbied for it to go through the FDA when they created it. It went through the trials MUCH too quickly for my comfort and there are so many young women whose lives and health has been destroyed due to adverse reactions. I'm utterly shocked anyone in this community would advocate it.

  13. Kelly says:

    I used to be on board with the vaccine for my daughters – why not, I comply with all the other immunization schedules – and it was even recommended for them to me by a GYN Oncologist I work with (and we both work for the medical institution that created and developed Gardasil). Then I found out that there are now cases of infertility related to the vaccine and that during testing, the drug was found not to be harmful to male fertility, but not evaluated in female fertility. As hard as that is to believe, I still can’t in good conscience give these shots to my daughters if that is a risk.

  14. Robin Donnelly says:

    I don't read Elephant Journal for this type of article for one. For two, as a nurse I am very much against this vaccine as well as many others. If you know anything about HPV, you know there are over 100+ strains, not 40 as stated in the article and HPV resolves on it's own within two years. Yogi's need to stick to writing about things they know about. Please, don't read this article and think you need to subject your children to it. It's hype and it has lethal consequences.

  15. @carolduncan says:

    Here's a series of stories I did for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation on my friend's HPV-induced throat cancer.

    I hope these are useful to your readers.

    This is what throat cancer looks like …

  16. Ashley says:

    Trust in the body to heal itself. I had HPV for 2-3 years, was never vaccinated, and it went away completely on its own. According to my wonderful gynecologist, this is not uncommon, but of course doctors in favor of the HPV vaccine won't tell you this.

  17. Matthew says:

    4simpleliving, that's not what Dr Harper said at all. Here's what she said, with an explanation: http://scienceblogs.com/insolence/2013/08/16/yet-
    Robin, yes there are a large number of HPV strains, however only 15 have been linked to cancer, and Gardasil targets 4 of those, with some cross-protection provided against other strains. HPV often resolves in two years, however in some people it results in a neoplasia, which in some grades can require a hysterectomy, and can progress to full blown cancer as well. The risks of those are much greater, and more significant in consequences, than the risks of reactions from Gardasil and Cevarix. http://www.infectagentscancer.com/content/8/1/22

  18. gerry says:

    This article should have been titled 'Why I will have my son and daughter vaccinated for HPV' to make it clear this is an opinion piece, and not medical advice.

  19. JBS says:

    Jennifer, thanks for the article. It's a refreshing change from the "7 ways to [insert feel good message here]" articles that often appear on EJ.

    After reading some of these comments, I'll try to bite my tongue here but I wanted to mention a few important points about HPV and vaccines to prevent it (see my reference at the end):
    -HPV causes 100% of cervical cancers
    -HPV types 16 and 18 cause 70% of cervical cancers and 50% of precancerous lesions (i.e. CIN 1/2/3)
    -HPV types 9 and 11 cause 90% of genital warts

    Point being, yes there are 100+ types of HPV but the four types covered by gardasil are responsible for the vast majority of cervical cancer/precancerous lesions and genital warts.

    -Among HPV naiive populations, the efficacy of the quadrivalent vaccine (gardasil) is 97-100%. For the rest of us HPV exposed people (and most people who are sexually active have been exposed) that drops to 47-50%. This is the reason for targeting young women, because that's when the vaccine's most effective.

    -As for this idea of there being more deaths in women who have received the vaccine, I read the Population Research Institute blog (the first link cited) and then went to the reference cited in the blog regarding increased mortality in women receiving the vaccines and frankly the numbers in the blog don't add up. Quoting the death rate as a number rather than a percentage is just poor math. One death in the saline placebo group doesn't sound like much compared to 21 deaths in the gardasil group, until you look at the sample size which is 15, 706 in the gardasil group compared to 594 in the placebo group. According to my math that makes the rate higher in the placebo group.
    -Furthermore, I would encourage people to look at the cause of deaths reported-the majority are from motor vehicle accidents, gunshot wounds, overdose, suicide…any person with a bit of common sense would realize these are very unlikely related to the vaccine.
    -There is some concern that there may be higher rates of clots in legs and lungs with the vaccine but this has yet to be definitively proven.

    A lot of the focus of these comments/articles has been on cervical cancer itself, but we forget the other problems HPV causes. I work as a primary care physician and the number of women I see who have CIN 1/2/3 (precancerous lesions) and then have to go through the anxiety and invasiveness of colposcopy as well as surgical procedures to remove the lesions is enormous. Cervical cancer is 'preventable' through screening paps and procedures but this entails its own set of problems-a vaccine that can prevent this is worth considering at the very least. Trust me, no one wants to go to their doctor every two weeks to get their genital warts frozen off.

    And lastly…this concept that 'the body heals itself'…well…yes it does…until it doesn't. And then you end up in stirrups with someone taking a laser to your cervix, or worse, on an OR table having your uterus and cervix cut out.

    I'm not trying to 'sell' the vaccine but I think it's important to look at the facts and come do a decision oneself-not just blindly believing what some blogger or pharmaceutical rep tells you.

    Reference: Castle PE, Cox JT, Palefsky JM. Recommendation for the use of human papillomavirus vaccines. Uptodate http://www.uptodate.com/contents/recommendations-

  20. Ashley, this is common. However, it's impossible to tell in who the virus will linger and later cause one of several cancers.

  21. Matthew, thanks. I've included similar links and information about the media misconstruing her words.

  22. JBS, thank you for this comment. You've stated and shared the facts and research that was also my goal to bring awareness too. You did a wonderful job. Thanks again.

  23. Hi, readers. I appreciate the time and thought that some of you have put into your comments, and I honestly don't have the energy to reply to every single one because much of what's going on in this conversation is an anti-vaccine ideology and, more, because it's extremely easy to misconstrue statistics and facts when they're not properly understood, and this is a complicated issue where many facts have obviously not been properly explained to some readers before they made they're firm judgments.

    However, I would like to please point out to anyone who keeps bringing up deaths, etc (especially on Facebook—including my personal author site).

    I'll share this particular quote with you from a Forbes article:

    "The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System was put in place in 1990 as a result of a 1986 law that requires health providers to report harm that comes to patients within a specific time period after vaccination. " http://www.forbes.com/sites/matthewherper/2012/05

    Click on the above link to continue reading.
    Essentially, it's not proven that these adverse reactions are related to the vaccine at all, but we have regulations in place that require them, basically, to be linked. (Again, read more on VAERS if you're confused.)

    Thanks for your time.

  24. Concerned mom says:

    I vaccinate my daughter with what she "needs" to attend school. However, there is no way in hell I will ever allow her to get this vaccine. The research I have read and the people I have spoken to have lead me to this decision. It is a dangerous vaccine that has not been thoroughly researched. To me, it's just another way for big pharma to profit at the expense of the health of the people. Too many people have had negative side effects. Perhaps when the vaccine has been improved upon with more research and time invested, I would change my mind. As it stands now, my response will always be a resounding NO. I respect everyone's opinion but I'll be darned if someone is going to force me ever to vaccine my daughter with this poison. End of story.

  25. Helen says:

    My daughter was immunized. It's offered to all school age children at 13 free of charge in the UK. I weighed up the risks and decided that she should have it. I have no problem with others making the opposite decision based on the facts. I have the added advantage of a scientist husband who extensively researched it first. But it's still just our personal decision for our family. It's good to open up the debate.

  26. OculusPhi says:

    Jennifer, I understand why you believe what you do, however your comment about people "bringing up deaths" seems very flippant. If you think that this law from 1986 that "requires health providers" to report problems means that it truly is being reported is accurate, this is a mistake. I have seen complications from vaccines first hand, where health providers outright refused to acknowledge the vaccine as the culprit to physical reactions. More than once. If you have spent even a small amount of time researching the deaths and debilitation that this HPV vaccine has caused, you'd know that many young, vibrant, healthy girls have lost either their lives or quality of life. The articles/ videos are often supported by foundations or memorials which have been set up. This is a dangerous line to be dancing on, especially when you are making a decision for another human being. Not only that, but Merck and Glaxo-Cline have been busted for falsifying reports regarding the effectiveness of their vaccines. I feel for any parent who has brought harm to their own children while believing they are protecting them. Ultimate sadness.

  27. Carolyn thank you and, Sara, thank you from the bottom of my heart. You expressed a very passionate viewpoint with eloquence and style, and I wish everyone was like this, because maybe then writing these types of articles wouldn't make my stomach churn so much (but I agree with both of you that bringing "hot" topics to elephant journal can be a good thing).

    Thanks again.