Controversy over the HPV shot

Aspen Earnhart, Feature Editor

Genital warts- the phrase itself probably brings up terrifying flashbacks from junior high health class. While the scare-tactic of showing pictures of STDs to 8th graders may not be the most effective, the terrifying reality of cancer-causing diseases is all too serious. One of these diseases is Human Papillomavirus, or HPV.

According to the Center for Disease Control, “HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is a different virus than HIV and HSV (herpes). HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active people get it at some point in their lives.” Different strains of HPV can also cause different types of cancer, and many of these can be prevented by vaccines. Now so far, this all seems pretty simple. Warts= bad. However, the current controversy comes in with the vaccine created to prevent the contraction of HPV.

     “GARDASIL 9 helps protect girls and women ages 9 to 26 against cervical, vaginal, vulvar, and anal cancers and genital warts caused by 9 types of HPV. GARDASIL 9 helps protect boys and men ages 9 to 26 against anal cancer and genital warts caused by those same HPV types,” according to the Gardasil 9 website. This name may sound familiar to you- that shot where you had to get three over a couple of months, usually around junior high? Yeah, that’s the one. The Gardasil shot helps to prevent various types of HPV, specifically the strains that may cause cancer. It’s most commonly given to children around 11-12, long before they’re sexually active or exposed to HPV. The virus can be transferred by any sexual activity, and in some cases, just through physical contact with someone infected.

      The controversy surrounding Gardasil is caused by fears of children engaging in sexual activity, and some side effects of the vaccine. Possible side effects include syncope (or fainting), local reactions at the site of immunization (pain and redness), dizziness, nausea, and headache. As well, many parents have concerns that the vaccine may motivate or encourage their children to engage in sexual activity, earlier than without it. However, there is little evidence showing that the vaccine has connection to increased sexual activity. (Likely due to the age in which the vaccine is administered.)

     While many parents choose to opt out of the Gardasil shot, the Center for Disease Control advises the best way to lower your chances of contracting HPV is getting vaccinated.

     “The HPV vaccine is safe and effective. It can protect against diseases (including cancers) caused by HPV when given in the recommended age groups. CDC recommends 11 to 12 year olds get two doses of HPV vaccine to protect against cancers caused by HPV.” As well, the CDC recommends regular cancer screenings, especially for women between 21 and 65 years old.