Friday, November 6, 2009


Our oldest child has reached the age where we need to decide whether she gets the Gardasil shot or not.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, it’s a shot that provides some immunity to a number of strains of HPV, which is probably the most widespread sexually transmitted disease out there. This is a big deal healthwise, because these strains of HPV are the main causes of cervical cancer.

A number of people out there—most of the voices out there are mainstream Xians, but there are some Mormons among them—are vehement in saying that girls shouldn’t be vaccinated against HPV. There are a number of arguments raised, and some of them are outside the scope of this blog (for example, the whole Vaccinations Are An Evil Communist Plot Against America nonsense), but one is clearly worth mentioning here: The idea that HPV (and, by extension, any cervical cancer that results) is a punishment for the sin of sexual promiscuity, and we shouldn’t be immunizing kids against the effects of sin. Also, there’s some worry that girls will be more likely to be sexually promiscuous if they know they’re not in danger of one of the possible drawbacks to such promiscuity.

A number of people have pointed out that kids don’t necessarily think of the drawbacks that go with having sex when they have sex, so that last argument has flaws. However, i’d like to take issue here with the other one, which i think is much more insidious.

Should we be preventing people from experiencing naturally-occurring punishments of their sins? It’s an interesting question. However, it doesn’t really work as an argument against vaccinating girls against HPV. Consider the following ways in which a woman may have contracted HPV, neither of which involve sin on her part:
  • She, as a virgin, marries a guy who isn’t a virgin and is a carrier of HPV.
  • She is the victim of a rape, and the rapist is a carrier of HPV.
In addition, arguments against Gardasil on the basis of HPV being a punishment for sin seem to make the claim that repentance really shouldn’t be allowed to be as complete as God promises, and they don’t deal with cases like, say, a woman who was never taught to limit her sexual activity, but then repents and is baptized and lives a sexually sinless life after that. She gets to be punished because she was raised in ignorance? Really nice thinking, folks.

We’re vaccinating our daughters against HPV—we actually trust our kids to make decent decisions, and if they don’t, we’re evil enough that we believe repentance should be allowed to actually work.


Butter said...

We definitely are NOT vaccinating our kids against Gardisil (boys will be vaccinated against it starting shortly). But it has nothing to do with getting HPV and everything to do with our previous pediatrician and our current doctor do NOT recommend it in general and in Ani's case in particular, the fewer the vaccines the better because of her reaction as a baby (our doctor actually refuses to give any of our kids DTaP since that was probably what she reacted to - he was our doctor when she had the reaction and is our doctor again now).

I don't think I'd get this one anyway, though. It prevents just 3 strains of HPV (there are a whole lot more) and those cause 80% of the HPV caused cervical cancers. However, they represent a relatively small percentage of all cervical cancers. Cervical cancers that run in families, for example, are not related to HPV at all. The best prevention of cervical cancer remains regular PAP Smears and removal of any suspicious or precancerous cells found.

Of course my feelings on vaccines in general are very much colored by watching my baby almost die due to a vaccine. Whether we would choose not to had Ani not had her reaction I don't know. We're a lot more careful now.

But our reasons for not vaccinating based on the "schedule" (we DO vaccinate, just slowly and selectively) have nothing to do with the vaccines are evil line of thinking and our reasons for not getting Gardisil have nothing to do with getting HPV/cervical cancer being a punishment for actions and everything to do with watching that baby almost die.

David B said...

And that’s why you’re not one of the people i’m annoyed at on this issue.

Certain others, though…