A mother and public health student offers ten reasons not to vaccinate children against a sexually transmitted disease.
Deirdre Fleming | Thursday, 22 October 2009
Imagine this. You are the parent of an eleven year old daughter. Early in the school year you receive a consent form for the standard Year 7 immunisations: Hepatitis B, Diphtheria-Tetanus-Pertussis, Chickenpox and Human Papillomavirus (HPV). Do you just tick all the boxes, or do you spend time considering the implications of your decision?
The last one on the list deserves special attention. HPV is a sexually transmitted infection, a point that the consent form neglects to mention. It merely states, “HPV is the name for a group of viruses that cause skin warts, genital warts and some cancers.” The arguments for and against this particular immunisation are rarely provided by schools, yet parents, for the sake of their children, need to consider carefully the messages they are conveying by agreeing to this vaccine.
Not just a generalised childhood disease
Most people would agree to vaccinating their children against infections that are generalised within the community so that everyone stands an equal chance of catching them – whooping cough and measles, for instance. But there is a new class of diseases that are increasingly being targeted by vaccine developers: sexually transmitted diseases such as Hepatitis B and cervical cancer, and this is where parents need to consider more carefully whether to immunise or not.
In the case of Hepatitis B there is an argument for immunising your child as the disease can be spread not only sexually, but also (rarely) through blood transfusions or blood-to-blood contact, for instance through sports injuries. Cervical cancer, however, is contracted exclusively through sexual activity. Like HIV, oncogenic HPV could not spread through the population if people were strictly monogamous.