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HPV Vaccine Examined in the Boston Globe

Rachel Hart,
Reproductive Freedom Project
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May 31, 2006

The Boston Globe ran a story on the HPV vaccine on Monday. If you’ve been following the HPV debate you’ll already know that critics think the vaccine (which can protect against some strains of HPV and in turn protect against contracting cervical cancer) will make teens more promiscuous. But as one of the doctor’s interviewed for the article says, “If we have a safe and effective way to prevent a particularly prevalent form of cancer, then why wouldn’t we do that?”

Highlights after the jump.

“What I will probably do is point out that last year alone, more people died of cervical cancer, which was pretty much directly produced by Human Papillomavirus, than were killed in 9/11,” said Watson, president of Pediatrics West, a private practice with offices in Concord, Westwood, and Groton.

“I’ll probably focus on the fact that the vaccine prevents cervical cancer in my sell, and not on the fact that this prevents a sexually transmitted disease,” said Dr. Joseph Hagan, a Burlington, Vt., pediatrician active in the American Academy of Pediatrics. “You know why? Because my Dad sold insurance, and I know what to emphasize and what not to emphasize.”

Parents, too, say they might not get into awkward questions of sexuality. In general, said Lynn Randall of Concord, whose daughters are 12 and 15, when one of her girls gets a shot, “We’re not telling her what she’s being vaccinated against; usually it’s just a shot to her — one of many shots she gets in her pediatrician’s visits.”

Irene Freidel , of Littleton said that if her 11-year-old daughter, Claire, were vaccinated tomorrow, she would most likely tell the girl only that “it was something that was going to protect her, like any other vaccination, and is good for her health.”

“I adore my daughter more than anything in the world,” she said, “and I can’t predict what she’s going to do as a teenager, what risks she’s going to be exposed to. To me, this is just extra protection.”

“Most parents will be eager to have their daughters vaccinated against HPV as long as they know they’re sending the right preventive messages: that they still need to practice safe sexual behaviors, postpone sexual initiation as long as possible,” and the like, Kahn said.

Nonwhites and those with poor access to healthcare stand to benefit the most from the vaccine because they are the least likely to get annual Pap smears and follow-up care after a problematic test, said Dr. Elizabeth Garner, a gynecological oncologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.Yet they are precisely the people who will have the hardest time getting access to the vaccine and getting the full dosage, she said.

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