In Virginia, the news today includes a story about our governor signing into law a bill that will require sixth grade girls to be vaccinated against the virus that causes cervical cancer. Human papilloma virus (HPV) is sexually transmitted and it is this fact that makes people get all weird about this topic.
In case you’re one of the people flinching at this news, allow me to break it down further for you: it will help protect your daughter from cancer that could kill her. Simple enough?
My daughter is a fourth grader. When I first heard about the vaccine called Gardasil I made a mental note to ask her pediatrician about starting the series. I still have a few reservations, however and will reasonably delay the vaccination for another two years, hoping that more results will be available, ensuring this is a safe vaccination with no serious side effects.
The issue people are all wigged out about is the fact that the HPV virus is sexually transmitted, arguing that providing young girls this vaccine gives them the incorrect message that it’s OK or worse, safe to become sexually active. I’m not naive enough to believe my hopes and wishes for my daughter are enough to protect her. If there were a vaccine for HIV I’d be signing up for that as well. But a virus that leads to cancer? One we can avoid? Is this really a question?
I do still have some issues, however. The vaccination series is three shots at $150 each. I do not know what insurance will cover. My first thought on reading about Gov. Kaine signing off on this law was, Who’s going to pay for it? Who is going to make sure the underprivileged girls get vaccinated? Who is going to make sure they go not for one, but three successive doctor visits? Will Medicaid pick up this tab for those eligible? If it’s a law, doesn’t someone have to cover the cost for all? I think about the teenaged girls and young single women in their twenties and thirties — what about them? Do they qualify for the vaccine?
I applaud the media relations campaign surrounding this issue. The “One Less” campaign is getting some attention and hopefully will continue to provide information parents need in simple, easy to understand terms. It does a good job of explaining what the vaccine is, and is not; what it will, and will not prevent. Parents should also remember to share this information with their daughters so it’s clear to them why they’re getting this series of shots, and from what it is designed to protect them.
A member of our extended family has cervical cancer. She is young and unmarried. She will not be able to have children. It is a tragedy that with today’s advancements, could have been avoided.
I know what I want for my daughter. I also know what I don’t.