Mandating the HPV Vaccination: A Controversial Debate
The Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the virus responsible for cervical cancer. It is one the most common viral sexually transmitted infections. A vaccine was approved in 2006 that is effective in preventing the types of HPV responsible for 70% of cervical cancers and 90% of genital warts. Proposals for routine and mandatory HPV vaccination of girls have become sources of controversy for parents of school-aged youth, legislators, members of the medical community, and the public at large (Cooper et al. 2010). Evidence Based Arguments against Mandatory HPV Vaccination
Childhood immunizations, such as measles, chicken pox, and polio, are mandatory for school-aged youth and are required because of their highly contagious nature, especially in settings where people congregate in large numbers (De Jong and Bouma, 2001). Therefore, parents question whether there is justification for mandating that children be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted virus, one that can only be transmitted through sexual behavior (Cooper et al. 2010). Moreover, the vaccine only protects against the high-risk HPV types responsible for 70% of cervical cancers. This incomplete protection does not reduce susceptibility to the other HPV types that cause the remaining 30% of cervical cancers and will still require females to undergo yearly cervical cancer screenings and to practice other preventive measures of reducing STI exposure (American Social Health Association, 2006). Therefore, parents believe that mandating the HPV vaccine for girls of school age is an unnecessary action in response to a promiscuous but preventable behavior (Gottvall et al. 2011). Yet, another argument against the vaccine’s mandatory use is that there are too many unknowns regarding the HPV vaccine such as side effects and long-term effects. Advocates against mandatory vaccination also believe there has not been enough time for science to ascertain whether or not booster immunizations are required, and if so, how often and at what age they should be administered. Currently, the vaccine appears to be effective for only 5 years. Unfortunately, not all possible side effects of the vaccine have been determined, and since the approval of Gardasil, at least 82 adverse events have occurred including nausea, fever, rashes, and fainting spells (Gottvall et al. 2011). Other questions and unknowns exist about the HPV vaccine. What is the impact for men? What, if any, are the short-term or long-term impacts of the vaccine on fertility or pregnancy intention? What other additional clinical and behavioral research does the scientific community require to make a sound evidence-based decision about potential vaccine risk? Furthermore, clinical trials with new vaccines are being conducted presently that protect against more HPV types as well as with those that potentially could prevent cervical cancer in women who are already infected with the virus. Therefore, persons advocating caution about acting quickly on the issue of mandatory HPV immunization see it as a premature action given the range of unanswered questions and the prospect of new or divergent results from clinical trials that are not yet completed (Perkins et al. 2010). Evidence Based Arguments for Mandatory HPV Vaccination
HPV is a disease which spreads very easily. An individual may have the virus without knowing that they do. Often people have HPV with no signs or symptoms. In fact, they could have one of the really dangerous types of HPV and not even know it. Reports in Canada show that 8 out of 10 Canadians will have at least one HPV infection in their lives. While most of these infections will go away on their own, some may not. If HPV is not found and not treated, it can become a serious infection or something worse. If an individual doesn’t know that they have HPV, certain types of the virus could develop into cancer of the cervix, vagina, vulva or anus....
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