Skeptoid PodcastSkeptoid on Facebook   Skeptoid on Twitter   Skeptoid on Spotify   iTunes   Google Play

Members Portal

Support Us Store


Get a Free Book



If You Are Avoiding Vaccinating Your Child For HPV. Let Me Help You.

by Stephen Propatier

July 24, 2013

Share Tweet Reddit

Donate American actor Michael Douglas has claimed publicly that his throat cancer was the result of oral sex with a as yet unnamed female. His claim is weak at best,given his his history of smoking. In my opinion, smoking is a far more likely culprit at his stage of life.Still the publicity that his claim has brought to HPV and throat cancer does help public health. His statements are based on the very real fact that the human papilloma virus (strain 16) is a cause of throat cancer. This strain is generally transmitted by sexual contact. I believe a recentstudy published in the Journal of Clinical Oncologycan open the door to wider acceptance of the HPV vaccine.

This study titled "Evaluation of human papilloma virus antibodies and risk of subsequent head and neck cancer", does show a connective link between certain types of head/neck cancer and the human papilloma virus. The surprising component of this study is that HPV is greater than other "all cause" morbidity/mortality indicators. In a population of 600+ subjects the human papilloma virus was correlated with head and neck cancer. The research demonstrated a greater cancer association with HPV over any other factor. This includes smoking/tobacco products.

It is a well structured piece of research. It is not conclusive. The research and the publicity associated with Mr Douglas's illness has opened the door to a "easier" discussion about the HPV vaccine. Especially with children.

As I have written previously about the effectiveness and safety of this vaccine. CDC recommendations as follows.

ages 9 through 26 years. CDC recommends that all 11 or 12 year old girls get the 3 doses (shots) of either brand of HPV vaccine to protect against cervical cancer. Gardasil also protects against most genital warts, as well as some cancers of the vulva, vagina and anus. Girls and young women ages 13 through 26 should get HPV vaccine if they have not received any or all doses when they were younger.Gardasil is also licensed, safe, and effective for males ages 9 through 26 years. CDC recommends Gardasil for all boys aged 11 or 12 years, and for males aged 13 through 21 years, who did not get any or all of the three recommended doses when they were younger. All men may receive the vaccine through age 26, and should speak with their doctor to find out if getting vaccinated is right for them.The vaccine is also recommended for gay and bisexual men (or any man who has sex with men) and men with compromised immune systems (including HIV) through age 26, if they did not get fully vaccinated when they were younger."

There has been a great deal of resistance to this vaccine. The virus it treats is associated with sexually transmitted diseases. In the United States resistance to the vaccine goes beyond the normal anti-VAX propaganda. This is primarily due to the facts of transmission. Some view the vaccine as societal approval of unprotected teenage sex.The more global vaccine objection concerns forcing parents to pursue a human sexuality discussion with pre-teen children. In the United States sexuality is always an educational and political nightmare. It is a common theme in our society to avoid sex discussions or develop unrealistic answers. IE: abstinence. It has been a devastating equation for public health. Parental hesitancy, religious objection, plusfear mongering byanti-Vax proponents equals a medical fail.

I have never truly understood these arguments. When it comes to vaccinating children you don't ask their permission, since he/she will most likely not agree. Neither do I personally explain to my child what the vaccine specifically is preventing. I teach him that vaccines are necessary to keep him and his friends from getting very sick. I rarely, if ever, discuss the disease, the symptoms, or the transmission with him. I understand that young preteen and adolescents certainlywould question the need for a needle. My hope is that Mr. Douglas and some good research will help remove some of the social barriers to this vaccine.

Now you can tell your preteen that is the vaccine is to prevent throat cancer. That's applicable to both boys and girls. There is no reason to have to discuss the mode of transmission for this virus.

I recommend that parents take the opportunity with this vaccine to have a frank and pointed discussion about sex and sexually transmitted diseases with your children. Still realistically I know most parents avoid this like the plague. The best scenario is for the child to get the vaccine and have the sexuality discussion. I accept that the former is more important than the latter. I hope that this "out" opens the door for hesitant parents wanting to avoid this conversation. Anything that would improve current vaccination rates is needed.

We are not getting it done with this disease. Despite two options for vaccination. The rates are poor. In 2010, only 48.7% of girls ages13 through 17 received at least one dose of the three-dose HPV vaccine (Cervarix joined Gardasil as the second HPV vaccine in 2009), and only 32% received all three recommended doses. Considering the U.S. government’s Healthy People 2020 target is 80% vaccination among girls ages 13 to 15 for all three doses, those immunization rates are lagging. Comparatively, vaccination rates are much higher in Canada, the U.K. and Australia."

There is plenty of anti-vaccination pressure in the Western world. Due to misunderstanding about vaccines and a systematic misinformation campaign by the anti-vaccine community. Parents are concerned about giving their child a"new"vaccine. Realistically this is not "new", just under-utilized. This vaccine has been in widespread use for almost 4 years. Despite propaganda to the contrary there have been no significant issues with the vaccine. It continues to demonstrate consistent efficacy. There is no good reason to avoid vaccinating your children. In addition, if you wait and your children are exposed to this disease the cancer benefit is greatly reduced.

There are many types cancers, breast cancer, testicular cancer, colon cancer, pancreatic cancer etc. For those cancer patients a vaccine is a pleasant fantasy. It makes no sense to avoid a proven method of deadly cancer prevention. All because of misinformation, fear mongering religious ideology, and parental stress. Everyday in the world there are people who suffer or die from some form of cancer. Ask them if they would've taken the risk of a vaccine. Ask them if they would have accepted a vaccine in their childhood to avoid their cancer.

In a society that spends billions on anti cancer vitamins and supplements; that tries multitudes of unproven useless treatments to avoid or prevent cancer. I find it ironic and staggeringly human for that same population to fight tooth and nail against a simple vaccine that would prevent cancer.

I implore you use the tool that I've given you. If you're scared by talking to your children about the STD aspect of HPV, focus on the throat cancer. No discussion about human sexuality at all. It is better to take it as an opportunity to speak to children about sexuality. If you find yourself unable to have that conversation at least give your child a very real chance to avoid cancer.

think about it.


by Stephen Propatier

Share Tweet Reddit

@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit








Want more great stuff like this?

Let us email you a link to each week's new episode. Cancel at any time: