Livescience reports that a survey of over 1,000 American physicians determined that a minority of doctors took issue with the vaccine on moral grounds and even efficiency. Susan Vadaparampil, the leader of the study, told the publication that this is pretty worrisome given that it is a doctor’s suggestion that often successfully prompts a parent into getting their tween girl vaccinated. This moral pause apparently can account for the low HPV vaccine rate in girls ages 13 to 18, which is currently only at 45%. This is reportedly half of the vaccination rate for most childhood vaccines. And perhaps these responses from doctors can help illuminate why that is:
The doctors’ survey indicated that some physicians ”” particularly family physicians, as opposed to gynecologists and pediatricians ”” echoed complaints voiced by some parents: that the vaccine given to preteens or young teenagers promotes promiscuity, lulls girls into a false sense of security, and discourages them from seeking regular gynecological screening.
There is no evidence to support these concerns, the researchers said. In fact, general vaccine usage dictates otherwise: No one knowingly steps on dirty nails, emboldened by the power of a tetanus shot. Also, studies reveal that teenagers are more aware of other common and immediate hazards of unprotected sex: HIV, gonorrhea and teen pregnancy. Thus teenagers would not have unprotected sex based solely on protection offered against something that prevents cancer decades down the line.
While it is true that a reported one quarter of girls believe that a few rounds of Gardasil means that they no longer have to practice safe sex, we can safely attribute that miscommunication to not speaking to girls frankly about what these vaccines actually prevent. Gardasil is by no means a “magical condom,” to quote Livescience — it’s a cancer preventative. But certain terminology has parents’ brains going haywire compared to other vaccines:
The “HepB” vaccine is given to infants and lasts upwards of 25 years. HepB lacks controversy, though, because children can acquire the liver-damaging hepatitis B non-sexually through infected members in their household.
The HPV vaccine, on the other hand, is chiefly about sex and has all the buzzwords to make it controversial: teenage girls, cervix, vagina and penis.
You hit the proverbial nail head there, Livescience. Now accepting alternative word choices for “cervix” and “teenage girls.”