I belong to a Facebook group for local moms. Conversations sometimes get heated. (That’s putting it mildly.) Last week one of the women posted asking for opinions. Her pediatrician broached the subject of the Gardasil shot for her 9-year-old. What did all the other moms think, she wanted to know. Gardasil, for those who do not know, is a relatively new shot that is designed to protect against a handful of the many strains of HPV, according to the manufacturer, Merck.
A quick primer on HPV, which is also known as the human papillomavirus, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC): “HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. Most people who become infected with HPV do not even know they have it.”
The conversation was fast and furious with more than 88 posts within the span of 12 hours or so. People shared very personal details about being infected with HPV. They talked about needing cryotherapy and having abnormal growths frozen off their “ya-yas.” They talked about how common the disease is. People also shared their very real concerns about trusting a shot that only approved by the FDA in 2006.
The discussion also included a lot of doom and gloom. A lot of, “why wouldn’t you protect your child from cancer if you could.” (According to the CDC, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer each year here in the U.S., and almost all are HPV-associated.) I am, probably not surprisingly, against the shot. I’ve read too much about the shot’s adverse reactions. I also understand the statistics.
To put 12,000 cases into perspective: 20 out of every million women ages 20 to 24 get cervical cancer each year here in the U.S., and about 160 out of 1 million women ages 40 to 44 get the disease. Those are pretty good odds. Plus, it’s highly curable, with a survival rate of 93 percent if caught early. (Early detection happens with regular pap smears, so make sure you or your female loved ones are following the recommendations for their age.) Those statistics coupled with side effects posted in the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) that I found here gave me a lot to think about. A LOT. I highly suggest everyone do a search on that site, actually.
At the end of the day, figuring out whether to immunize a 9-year-old against an STD is going to be up to parents — informed parents. I will not be getting that shot for my 9-year-old ever. That’s my choice with the information I have. How about you?
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