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Genital human papillomavirus (HPV)

More early objections to, and acceptance of, the
Gardasil® HPV vaccine. Studies on whether vaccinated
girls do become promiscuous. Webmaster's comments.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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More early objections to, and acceptance of, the Gardasil vaccine in the U.S., Canada and the rest of the world:

  • In the United States: Particularly during the Bush Administration, the U.S. government had been heavily funding abstinence only sex-education classes in high schools. In these sex-ed classes, the dangers of sexual activity (unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs)) are emphasized. However, no helpful information is given to students on how to prevent pregnancy or STI transmissions; some of the information is invalid. The result is that those students who decide to become sexually active or may become so in the future have no prevention information, except that which they might be able to pick upon on the Internet, from health units, peers, etc.

Many religious and social conservatives give an extremely high priority to teen celibacy and feel that abstinence only education is the way to achieve this. Being knowledgeable about the hazards of sexual behavior while being ignorant of prevention methods makes sex an extremely hazardous activity, because the teens would not know how to avoid both pregnancy and the transmission of STIs.

If they remain unvaccinated, they might still be infected with HPV:

  • As a result of rape;

  • As a result of "outercourse" -- close physical contact short of intercourse involving skin to skin contact;

  • By marrying a man who is already infected with HPV, as most potential husbands are or have been; or

  • By changing her mind and becoming sexually active and eventually having sex with someone infected with HPV.

As the Family Research Council stated:

"... we also recognize that HPV infection can result from sexual abuse or assault, and that a person may marry someone still carrying the virus. These provide strong reasons why even someone practicing abstinence and fidelity may benefit from HPV vaccines." 1

In those states where compulsory vaccination is not required for high school attendance, parents have to individually decide which is the more troublesome concern:

  • The possibility of their daughter contracting HPV and later dying from cervical cancer, or

  • The unknown -- at the time -- risk that she might become more sexually active as a result of having received the vaccination.

Obviously, it was of paramount importance for human sexuality researchers to investigate the degree -- if any -- by which sexual experimentation will increase among teens who are vaccinated against HPV. Religiously conservative parents desperately needed this information in order to make this very important decision on behalf of their daughters. As of early 2007, surveys had shown that the risk of increased sexual activity is undetectably small or zero. However, these surveys may have been biased. They have been conducted by pharmaceutical companies and public health groups whose prime motivation is making a profit and saving lives. We were able to find any data from surveys sponsored by religious conservative groups.

In 2005, Greg Zimet of Indiana University in Indianapolis, IL was optimistic that the problem of parental resistance to the vaccine may prove to be a non-issue in the U.S. New Scientist magazine reported in 2005-APR that:

"His surveys in the US show parents overwhelmingly favor getting their daughters vaccinated. 'Doctors tend to fear the worst,' he says." 2

  • In Canada: Acceptance of the vaccine was expected to be higher than in the U.S., if for no other reason than the presence of a lower percentage of religious conservatives in the country. Also, the vaccine is provided free under the universal health care system. A pilot survey of 73 girls aged 13 to 17 and 73 of their parents in Nova Scotia indicated that over 75% would accept it. The study found that 30% of the girls were sexually active, with a mean age for first sexual experience of 14.5. Monique MacFarlane Conrad, who led the study by the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology in Halifax said:

"The findings were actually quite similar between both parents and teenagers. There was overwhelming approval for the vaccine."

MacFarlane Conrad, a third-year medical student at Dalhousie University said:

"There were very few people who said, 'No, no way.' Those who said 'maybe,' what they wanted was clarification, what they wanted was more information, particularly from their doctor. If their doctor said it was safe and they could be reassured that this vaccine was necessary . . . then they would accept it."

Focus on the Family, Canada published a generally positive comment on the HPV vaccine on 2006-JUN-09. They wrote:

" 'The possibility of an ethically produced vaccine [to prevent HPV] is good news,' added Focus on the Family Canada senior vice-president Derek Rogusky. 'However, it is important that parents and families be given the choice of whether or not they will make use of this new product, when and if it is approved for use in Canada. Regardless of the availability of an HPV vaccine, sexual abstinence and marital faithfulness remain the best preventative measures for HPV and sexually transmitted infections'." 3

However, inoculation rates remained much lower than public health officials had hoped for by 2012:

    "Canadian health officials had hoped that 90 per cent of girls would be receiving the three-shot vaccine against the sexually transmitted virus by now [2012-APR]. But just 59 per cent of Grade 8 Ontario girls were vaccinated in 2009-2010, the most recent year for which statistics are available. Similarly “disappointing” numbers have been recorded in other provinces. ..."

    " 'The vaccination rates are disappointingly low,' says Dr. Joan Robinson, chair of the Canadian Paediatric Society’s infectious diseases and immunization committee. 'At the beginning, there was lots of misinformation out there and lots of parents didn’t understand why on earth we would be vaccinating little girls, as young as nine in some provinces, against sexually transmitted diseases'." 8

The immunization programs in Ontario have been impeded by the decision by two Roman Catholic school boards in the province to not let their Grade 8 girls be vaccinated. 8 Fred Henry, the Catholic bishop of Alberta, has been known for his strong opposition to same-sex marriage. He and other bishops in Alberta have decided that it is morally acceptable for a child to receive the vaccination, but it is morally wrong for a Catholic institution, like the province's separate school system, to make it happen. 9 According to the Calgary Sun, the bishops' veto views "... the use of the vaccine ... as an invitation tfor teen girls to become promiscuous." 10

  • Elsewhere in the world: The situation may be very different. Resistance to the vaccine may be high.

Anne Szarewski of the charity Cancer Research UK was involved in one of the vaccine trials in England. She found:

"... that some Asian women in Britain are afraid even to get tested for HPV infection, because they say if it is positive they will be killed, never mind that their husbands probably gave it to them."

She feels that such attitudes may mean that HPV vaccination may be a non-starter in such communities. 2

There is still another consideration concerning the HPV vaccine: could it be made available to women in non-developed countries at an affordable cost?

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Merck halts lobbying effort:

In mid 2007-FEB, Merck, the developers of Gardasil, terminated its program of lobbying of state legislators to require the inoculation of school students. Some public health officials and medical organizations had contacted the company suggesting that its campaign was counter-productive. The lobbying was fueling objections to the vaccine. That could undermine its widespread adoption. Dr. Haupt said that:

"They believe the timing for the school requirements is not right. ... Our goal is to prevent cervical cancer. Our goal is to reach as many females as possible. Right now, school requirements and Merckís involvement in that are being viewed as a distraction to that goal."

Some religious and social conservatives object to the vaccine on moral grounds. Universal inoculation of pre-pubertal girls would eventually prevent on the order of 10,000 occurrences of cervical cancer per year and save the lives of about 4,000 women per year in the U.S.

Illinois State Senator Debbie Halvorson (D) who had a hysterectomy as a result of the human papilloma virus, sponsored a bill to make the vaccine mandatory in her state. She complemented Merck on its decision, saying:

"If the people out there are thinking that Merck is doing all this, and pushing our buttons, they need to just step away. The fact that Iím doing what Iím doing has nothing to do with Merck." 4

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2012-OCT: Finally: two reliable studies of whether the vaccine makes girls promiscuous:

It took seven years before reliable studies surfaced. That is to be expected, because researchers would have to wait:

  • Until girls who were vaccinated at age 11 had gone through puberty, and then
  • Wait for a year or two until girls reached the age of about 16 by which time most girls had become sexually active.
  • Wait for a further number of years to see whether the girls who were vaccinated had engaged in more sexual activity than unvaccinated girls.

A number of studies have been published, including one in the UK during early 2012-OCT, which have shown no connection between vaccine innoculation and subsequen promiscuity. Another was reported in 2012-FEB. It involved older females, aged 15 to 24. It was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control who interviewed the girls directly. Researchers found no difference in sexual behavior between the vaccinated and unvaccinated sets of girls. Unfortunately, the surveys suffered from one major flaw: they generally relied on interviews of girls or their parents.

Finally, a reliable study has been published:

It was funded by Kaiser and Emory Universities. Researchers collected data on 1,398 young teenage girls who were enrolled in Kaiser Permanente health plans in Atlanta, GA. 493 had been vaccinated at the age of 11 or 12 between 2006-JUL and 2007-DEC. 906 had not been vaccinated. The researchers did not interview the girls or their parents directly. Rather they studied "markers" of sexual activity from up to three years of medical records to find out whether the girls had sought birth control information, had tests for STIs, had pregnancy tests, or had become pregnant. By testing for markers instead of using direct interviews, the team felt that the results would be much more accurate.

After comparing the medical records for vaccinated and unvaccinated girls, lead author Robert Bednarczyk said that the results were "comforting and reassuring." They concluded that there was no difference in sexual activity among the two sets of girls. They found:

  • At least 90% of vaccinated and unvaccinated girls did not have pregnancy tests, tests for chlamydia, or birth control counseling.

  • Two in each group had became pregnant.

  • Chlamydia was diagnosed in one vaccinated girl and three unvaccinated girls.
They concluded that: "HPV vaccination in the recommended ages was not associated with increased sexual activity–related outcome rates." 5,6

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Webmaster's opinion: [bias alert]

Two conclusions concerning teen sexuality have logically followed from the teachings about human nature by many conservative faith groups:

  • Comprehensive sex-ed classes that teach students how to avoid pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STI) will cause a higher level of sexual activity among teens because fear of these two possibilities will be replaced by knowledge of how to preventing them.

  • That receiving a vaccine to drastically reduce the chances of contracting HPV and cervical cancer will cause teens to become more promiscuous because they will no longer fear contracting this particular STI.

However, actual scientific studies have revealed that these are not valid conclusions. As a result, some parents who make decisions to not allow their female children to be inoculated against HPV. Instead of the number of deaths from cervical cancer trending towards zero during upcoming generations, they will remain higher than necessary. Some parents will find themselves burying their own children. They will have blood on their hands, along with some faith groups.

Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) proposed a solution to problems in which science and religion are in conflict. He created the philosophical world view called "Non-overlapping Magisteria" (NOMA). He suggested that science and religion each has its own area of interest that should not overlap. So questions of God, Heaven, Hell, salvation are religious questions best studied the theologians that scientists should stay out of. Meanwhile evolution of the species, the age of the Earth and its geological changes, the history and changes in the rest of the solar system and universe are matters best left to scientists. He argued that the science and religion magisteria are so different each they cannot inform, comment on, or criticize each other. If NOMA is applied to the conflict over HPV vaccination, then scientists would be left to engage in evidence-based studies to determine probable teen behavior while theologians and leaders of faith groups confined themselves to other pursuits. 7

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Moira Gaul, "Family Research Council Statement Regarding HPV Vaccines," Family Research Council, 2006-FEB-21, at: http://www.frc.org/
  2. Debora MacKenzie, "Will cancer vaccine get to all women?" NewScientist.com news service, 2005-APR-18, at: http://www.newscientist.com/
  3. "HPV vaccine nears approval," Focus on the Family-Canada, Today's Family News, 2006-JUN-09, at: http://www.fotf.ca/
  4. Andrew Pollack & Seephanie Saul, "Lobbying for vaccine to be halted," New York Times, 2007-FEB-21, at:  http://www.nytimes.com/
  5. Scott Thelsen, "HPV Shots Don't Make Girls Promiscuous, Study Says," ABC News, 2012-OCT-15, at: http://kstp.com/
  6. Robert A. Bednarczyk, et al., "Sexual Activity–Related Outcomes After Human Papilloma virus Vaccination of 11- to 12-Year-Olds, Pediatrics journal, 2012-OCT-15, abstract at: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/
  7. "Non-Overlapping Magesteria," Rational Wiki, as on 2012-AUG-15, at: http://rationalwiki.org/
  8. Shelly Page, "Five years later, HPV vaccination rates still 'disappointingly low'," Ottawa Citizen, 2012-APR-30, at: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/
  9. Rick Bell, "Calgary bishop won't back down on HPV vaccine — or anything else," Calgary Sun, 2012-JUN-27, at: http://www.calgarysun.com/
  10. Bill Kaufmann, "HPV crusaders set to sue Calgary's Catholic school board over anti-vaccination stance," Calgary Sun, 2012-OCT-13, at: http://www.calgarysun.com/

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 Home page > Morality > HPV > here

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Copyright © 2007 to 2012 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 2007-JAN-08
Last updated 2012-OCT-16

Author: Bruce A Robinson
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