Parents of boys may soon experience the same vaccine dilemma parents of girls have lived for the last few years. Should we give our child the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine? Announced earlier today, a government advisory panel is now suggesting that males aged 11-12 get the three shot series.
Unlike many vaccines, this one promotes heated discussion because it crosses ethical dilemmas and religious convictions. The push to vaccinate kids before schools have even introduced them to integers and information on potential scary side effects to this relatively new vaccine leaves parents in a quandary.
From a medical perspective, I understand why they want to vaccinate early. Merck has been very honest that for the vaccine to be effective it must be given BEFORE any exposure to the disease. And, with students experimenting at younger ages, the age of vaccination necessarily goes down.
But it’s a tough choice. We have these tiny little people that God has entrusted to us and we love with all our hearts. We want to make right decision. And, I can’t tell you what that is. Sorry if you were looking for an easy answer. In fact, I will be the first to admit that I’m thankful I still have some years to watch the research, talk with trusted pediatricians, and pray about it before we have to make a choice for our girls.
Either way, getting the facts straight is critical. I’m concerned the name “HPV vaccine” will cause a false perception of what the shot series actually protects from. It is NOT a vaccine to protect from all HPV. While over 100 strains of HPV exist (over 30 of which are transmitted sexually), this vaccination is meant to protect from four types- 6, 11, 16, and 18. (Interestingly enough, prevention for 16 & 18 in males was just approved in December 2010). Do the math and you’ll quickly realize that HPV will still exist, as will warts, cervical, penile, anal and throat cancer. This is not a get out of HPV free card.
Sadly, condoms aren’t going to be the solution either. Since HPV is a skin to skin contact disease and latex can’t cover the entire genital region, young ones will still be infected and lives will be forever changed. This may be one reason more than one in two sexually active singles become infected with HPV. Even those trying to be “safe” aren’t.
As parents, we must recognize that the solution, the real get out of HPV free card, is found in risk elimination NOT risk reduction. For our sons and daughters to escape this threat, they must honor a NO GENITAL CONTACT before marriage boundary, vaccinated or not. We need to teach our kids not to rely on three little shots but to stand confident in Godly character. Boys must be taught that respecting healthy boundaries will help his date to feel safe and protect his future wife. Girls must find joy and beauty in hiding what God meant to be treasure for her future spouse alone. This is our job…to train up a child in the way he should go (Prov 22:6)…not to say yes to a shot, zip our mouths, and hope our children will dodge a bullet.
I’m not saying vaccinating for HPV is wrong (that is a decision to made between individual parents and God) or that kids raised in Christian homes won’t make ungodly choices. I am saying that the medical community wasn’t called to do our job. WE need to help our children understand that their bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19) and, consequently, they need to demand respect for themselves and show that same respect to others around them. WE need to be educated so that we can have the critical conversations with our kids about this topic and we must address it often so that our children continue to see us as the “go-to” person in their lives. Most of all, we must stay dialed into our Life Line, the Lord, so that we can act in His wisdom and feel confident in our parenting choices.
I find the most fascinating piece of this “push” to be the overt acknowledgement that they took a new look at the male vaccine recommendations not only because they are concerned about the boys’ health, but because they are concerned about transmission to girls who are not being vaccinated at the numbers they hoped for. Will boy parents buy into this reasoning? Will they be more receptive to the vaccine than girl parents apparently have been? Time will tell.
For more education and to help grow your teens in character, I would encourage you to read and then share Nobody Told Me with your teen. Their eyes will be opened to the truth and the voices of their peers will encourage them to make healthy choices.