I have four daughters, the oldest of whom will soon be entering her teenage years. In five years, three of my daughters will be teenagers at the same time! Unlike many parents, I am actually looking forward to their teen years, as it is a wonderful time in which they are becoming adults and hopefully growing in their spiritual lives.
However, I am under no illusions about the dangers of the teenage years in our society. Over the past fifty years, our culture has decided that during the teen years it is acceptable to behave in beastly ways without consequences. This especially applies to the area of sexual relations; it is assumed by many people that teens are just going to do “it”, so all a parent should worry about is protecting them from physical harm (with no regard for the psychological/spiritual/mental harm of pre-marital relations). We see this in the push for teenagers to learn about contraception, while ignoring the possibility of abstinence.
But this mindset has also entered the realm of vaccinations. There is now a standard vaccination pushed on pre-teen girls which is to protect against HPV – Human Papillomavirus. This is a sexually transmitted infection, and the assumption of the vaccination is that the vast majority of girls will be sexually active in their teen years, so they should be vaccinated to protect themselves against HPV. My wife has been adamant that we will not get this vaccination for our girls, and I found a great article called “Girls and Gardasil: The Protection Game” which details the reasons not to give it to our daughters. It really is worthwhile to read the whole article and it is difficult to just excerpt parts of it. But here are some of the opening paragraphs:
Most people would agree to vaccinating their children against infections that are generalised within the community so that everyone stands an equal chance of catching them – whooping cough and measles, for instance. But there is a new class of diseases that are increasingly being targeted by vaccine developers: sexually transmitted diseases such as Hepatitis B and cervical cancer, and this is where parents need to consider more carefully whether to immunise or not…
The argument advanced for vaccinating schoolchildren is that most will be sexually active by the time they are eighteen and will have caught the virus by their early twenties; therefore, to be effective, the vaccine has to be administered prior to sexual debut. While this may appeal to parents with a pragmatic approach to life’s challenges, parents who are looking at the overall formation of their children need to take other factors into consideration. They have probably already had conversations with their children about the importance of exercising sexual responsibility prior to marriage and, with luck, they have been demonstrating steadfast fidelity and mutual support in their own marriage.
Deciding that they need to vaccinate a daughter against a sexually transmitted disease seems like a vote of no confidence in the child’s ability to display sexual self-control or choose a like-minded husband. It is like saying to a child, “Eat healthy foods, don’t overindulge and you won’t become obese … but, just in case you can’t control yourself, we’ll give you gastric banding surgery in advance.” Child psychologists are agreed that children are good at spotting when parents give them contradictory messages – and may later use them as justification for their behaviour. A school-based programme adds a social message that early sexual intercourse is allowed, as long as one uses “protection”…
The question we should be asking is, do we base our family decisions on worst case scenarios or do we try to support our children by building a “best practice” ethos within the family? And, importantly, using worst case scenarios to justify vaccination against STDs does not take into account the other ways of preventing cervical cancer nor the possible side-effects of vaccination.
Do read the whole article, and if you have pre-teen girls think carefully when you are asked to give them this vaccination. Are you possibly straining a gnat but swallowing a camel?