Dear Auntie Seraphic,
I'm a bit hesitant to write this due to its sensitive nature, but I feel that I must.
I'm not sure what conservative Christians (Catholic and Protestant) have against the HPV vaccination, but I strongly think that they should reconsider their positions. Unlike condoms or birth control pills, there isn't a moral prohibition against vaccinations. On the contrary, the vaccination protects the life of the girl and preserves her potential to give life to children.
I don't buy the argument that getting the girl the vaccine signals to her that it's okay to have sex whenever she wants. Hormones aside, 15 year old girls aren't complete idiots, and they are capable of understanding preventive measures taken in case of a mistake versus parental approval of said mistake. What that does require is a parental conversation with the kid about sex, which I think the real reason they've come up with such a shoddy argument.
In my experience the sex ed in Christian circles is abysmal. The real reason condoms don't protect against HPV? It's spread by skin on skin contact, not bodily fluids like most of the others. Which means that "technical virgins" can actually get HPV. When's the last time you heard that discussed? I'm sure I've never heard that from any Christian source, and I've been around for awhile. Yeah, I'm sure it would be nice if teenagers didn't have sex before marriage, but many do, and they are the most vulnerable ones due to their age.
Aside from teenage promiscuity, there's all sorts of reasons to vaccinate. There's sexual assault, and having the vaccination is just one less thing to worry about in that case. Also, you mentioned that the guy the girl one day marries may not have been perfect in his past. There's no test to take, and there's usually no symptoms for the guy. The best protection for the girl is to get vaccinated. Vaccinating early is best because it is most effective before sexual activity. Also, I'm not sure how the NHS works, but insurance in the US only pays for the vaccine if you are in the appropriate age range.
Which brings the topic to me. You see, I once thought I didn't need the vaccine when I was younger, for many of the same reasons I hear on conservative news and blogs. Now I wish I had taken the opportunity, because when I reconsidered I was out of the age range and couldn't afford it without insurance. I made a mistake, and now I have HPV, even though I was a really really good girl for many years. Luckily I don't have cancer, but pap smears every 6 months is no picnic. I'm not feeling sorry for myself, I just wish I had been wiser. No one knows the future, and even the best NCG can't guarantee that she'll never slip up once. Speaking from experience, the best method is to protect yourself, and that includes getting vaccinations against a very common disease.
Sorry for the long email, I just have strong views on this topic. Christians often talk about being cautious and protecting ourselves in regards to many other topics, and they should protect their girls against HPV.
-Older and Wiser
Dear Older and Wiser,
Thank you very much for your email. I didn't know that conservative Christians had anything against HPV vaccinations, unless it is part of a general distrust for Big Government and anything having to do with sex education or the patronizing idea that teenagers "will just do it anyway."
I think that maybe there is a learning curve, not just for the Christian community but for any public health body that needs to get across the idea that an HPV vaccination is not dirty or a statement that a girl can become promiscuous now. When my father said he wished his (now too old) daughters could have got the HPV vaccination, I was very angry with him because I thought he was suggesting something pessimistic about us. However, my father has a friend whose daughter died of cervical cancer, and this affected him very much.
Thus your arguments are very good. An HPV vaccination is not a mark of dishonour for any 15 year old girl but a recognition that she could catch HPV from any man, including her husband. And I think any public health body should get that idea across instead of dumb posters with a teenage girl with her head tilted to one side with "Am I ready for sex?" in a thought bubble over her head.
I hope I may publish your email, as I would like other girls to read it. Meanwhile, I am sorry you have HPV, and I hope it clears completely out of your system. From my reading, it appears that it usually does.
Grace and peace,
P.S. to all: Once again, I am not a doctor, and I don't know if I would have my 15 year old daughter vaccinated, if I had one. (Ask your doctor if she would.)
It is not guaranteed that any of us will get HPV, and I am (rightly or wrongly) suspicious of all new "magic bullet" drugs and vaccinations because of what happened to the "DES Daughters" and the poor people exposed to thalidomide. All I can say is that it is your parents' and/or your decision. And, incidentally, I see that boys can be inoculated for it, too. Interesting that the burden of responsibility for sexual health has ONCE AGAIN been placed on women.
By the way, as a twice-married middle-aged lady, I get a cervical smear myself. The National Health Service in Scotland advises that women have this done every two years.