Parents wary of Gardasil shot for boys

Timesleader.com

Northeastern Pennsylvania
June 1, 2010

LISA BLACK Chicago Tribune

Dawn Delott is wary of new vaccines and doubts she will let her daughter get the potentially life-saving HPV immunization — let alone her son, for whom the stakes aren’t nearly as high.

For parents already uneasy about vaccinating their children, the news that the maker of Gardasil recently began promoting its HPV shots to boys as young as 9 is prompting yet another round of internal debate.

Gardasil was introduced for girls in 2006 as the first vaccine to offer protection against human papillomavirus, or HPV. The sexually transmitted virus can cause genital warts in both sexes.

But while HPV has been linked to rare types of cancers in males, most who carry it never have symptoms. Certain types of HPV in females, though, are known to raise a much greater risk of cervical cancer. So advocates say the most important reason to have men vaccinated is to protect their female partners.

“I like the fairness of it — that either sex has the opportunity to take it and not just female,” said Delott, 39, of Gurnee, Ill. But while Delott’s daughter, 8, and son, 7, have been vaccinated for the traditional diseases, including measles, mumps and rubella, she prefers to take a holistic route whenever possible. “How do you know how safe the vaccine is, because it is so new?”

Doctors who have begun recommending the vaccine for both sexes expect questions from parents, given the controversy it initially generated when introduced.

Some parents, many of whom were surprised to learn Gardasil is now being offered to boys, said they fear that having their children vaccinated would encourage earlier sexual activity. Many also question its cost: $390 for the series of three shots.

Aria Wasil, 27, of Highland Park, Ill., mulled it over before saying she doubts she will have her son, now 6, get the vaccine when he’s older.

“You should be teaching your kids about abstinence,” she said. “I want to teach my son about respecting his body as well as the person he is going to be with.”

Other parents remain skeptical about any new drug in an era when pharmaceutical companies advertise medications directly to the public. Nearly one in eight reported that they had refused at least one immunization recommended by their pediatrician, according to a 2009 University of Michigan study recently published in the journal “Pediatrics.”

Parents refused the HPV vaccine most often, with 56 percent of study participants deciding against having their children vaccinated.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.