On June 8, 2006, the national Food and Drug Administration approved GARDISIL, a new vaccine that helps protect patients against various strains of the Human Papilloma Virus.
While the new vaccine has become federally regulated, several states have attempted to make it mandatory for girls beginning age eleven. Although the vaccine is advertised as a cervical cancer vaccine, it has triggered a moral debate in whether it should be mandatory for young women.
The Human Papilloma Virus, also known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the nation. There are roughly 40 different strains of the virus that can be contracted, and about 20 million people in the U.S. alone are infected with one or more of them. Both men and women can be infected.
However, there are two major strains that potentially cause cervical cancer, both of which can be treated by GARDISIL. The disturbing aspect of this virus is that once it is contracted there is no cure. There are only medications to regulate the disease.
The vaccine, though created to protect women from contracting a potentially cancerous virus, is still relatively new and has some potentially life-threatening side effects. The vaccine is given in a series of three injections, and most reactions were documented during the first injection. .
According to the National Vaccine Information Center, roughly six months after the FDA approved GARDISIL, there were 82 reports of reactions submitted to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System.
A 16 year old girl was vaccinated July 7. Thirteen days later she developed symptoms eventually diagnosed as Guillian-Barre Syndrome, a serious disorder in which the body’s immune system attacks part of the peripheral nervous system.
Twenty-five percent of all VAERS reports filed after the GARDISIL vaccine was given were for neurological adverse events such as loss of consciousness, syncope (a temporary suspension of consciousness due to cerebral ischemia) and seizers.
Aside from risky side effects, underlying principles of gender bias and a young woman’s right to choose remain. No one is currently proposing that the vaccine be required for young males, who are also able to contract and pass on the disease. This vaccine is also intended for young women who are not sexually active, which means that a young woman would be forced to be vaccinated for a sexually transmitted disease before making the decision to have sex.
It would be required for females, proponents say, to prevent the potential of eventually being diagnosed with cervical cancer; however, since males are also able to pass on the virus, they could still pass a different strain onto a woman with or without the vaccine. Requiring only females to be vaccinated assumes that women are primarily responsible for passing on the virus.
Many parents are morally opposed to the vaccine since they feel that it would act as an excuse or incentive for young girls to become sexually active. Bridget Maher of the Family Research Council stated, “Giving the HPV vaccine to young women could be potentially harmful, because they may see it as a license to engage in premarital sex.”
Most moral issues, such as birth control and abortion, are not prejudicially enforced by the government, but regulated so that people may choose to do what they think is right. The same reasoning should apply to this new vaccine. Although it was created with good intentions, the vaccine is not foolproof if solely females are required to have it and only certain strains of the virus are preventable.
Cigarettes have been linked to cancer, yet adults may decide whether they are willing to accept the health risks that cigarettes and other Tobacco products entail. Tobacco products among other things remain an option, a moral option. They are not illegal. We advertise their potentially dangerous and sometimes fatal side effects, but tobacco products remain a choice, as should the decision to have sex, including safe sex precautions such as vaccinations.
The Human Papilloma Virus is a dangerous disease and should be advertised as such, but it should not be mandatory for any woman to be confined to one prevention option, especially when the woman is still a little girl.