Controversy over HPV Vaccines

Human papillomavirus or HPV has haunted the mankind for so long, spreading over 170 strains and infecting millions of people worldwide. Even though the majority of these strains are actually harmless, many have serious effects on the person’s health.

Take for example the subtypes 6 and 11. These lead to genital warts. Subtype 18 leads to vulvar, cervical, vaginal, anal, penal and oral cancer. And these are just a few of the list.

This is not a hypothetical idea. HPV is the reason for death of more than 270,000 women in 2012 alone and statistics say that 90% of all cervical cancers are caused by it.

At this point, vaccination is the most successful method of controlling infectious diseases.

The HPV Vaccine

Fortunately, the HPV vaccine called Gardasil is highly effective at preventing the HPV infection. At this point, it is known to be 99% effective against the worst subtypes of the infection in women (subtypes 6, 11, 16 and 18).

Yet, vaccinations rates started dropping rapidly and have stagnated below the optimum protection levels in the US. In addition, many Europe countries have mounted a number of legal challenges for this vaccine.

But, why is HPV vaccination the subject of dogged opposition on a worldwide level?

Controversy over HPV Vaccine

Generally, controversy over the HPV vaccine can be separated into two categories:

  1. Moral concerns
  2. Safety fears

Both these controversies carry many solid points, which is why the struggle to pick the right choice has come to this stage.

Moral Concerns

The contingents who voice opposition on moral grounds come in a sizeable number. Some of them are parents, unable to accept the idea that their children will at some point have sexual urges. Others are physicians who speak of moral grounds based on religion and other beliefs.

The moral opposition to the vaccination is mostly present in the US and promoted by religious conservatives. This group points to arguments that advocate abstinence instead of vaccination. According to them, young people can become more promiscuous when they do not fear cervical cancer or genital warts, which is why the HPV vaccine should not be implemented as prevention for the virus.

In other words, they believe that the vaccine will encourage immoral behavior in young people.

Even though some will find this assumption contradicted by all the data related to the vaccination, this is a real belief among thousands of people on a worldwide level. Yet, evidence at this point indicates that the recommended abstinence programs do not work. On the opposite, these pinpoint to another issue that rises from the ‘consequences of sex’ principle, which is uneducated teens in sex education and more pregnancies.

Moreover, vaccination has been proven to make teenagers more aware of their sexual health rather than simply failing to educate them on this issue. When a teen is vaccinated for HPV, they become fully cogniscent of the vaccine’s effect and the fact that it is not a panacea to STDs.

Safety Fears

Even though Gardasil has been tested for many years and remains constantly monitored to avoid potential adverse effects, the safety fears are still existent among mankind.

By all measures, scientists have found the vaccination to be effective and safe, with an extremely low complication rate. At this point, the most common reaction to the vaccine is fainting post injection and irritation at the site.

A 2015 report based on over a million participants concludes the high safety profile of this vaccine. Despite this, people still call the vaccination process dangerous and report of ‘vaccine-damage’. And whilst some of this is misunderstanding, many anti-vaccine campaigners continue  to share their claims across the social media.

Take for example the claims that HPV vaccine causes chronic fatigue and thrombosis. These were fierce, but comprehensively debunked. Afterwards, a number of legal challenges have arisen to fight the vaccination.

Still, scientists argue that these attempts to fight the vaccine are misguided and far from supported by clinical evidence. In the 200 million doses of the vaccine given to date, we still have not seen any of the trends they are presenting.

As with every controversy as big as this one, the claims that the vaccine is bad are constantly broadcasted by the media organizations, which results in a new, big audience of worried parents. At this point, some parents are considering whether they should vaccinate their kids against HPV.

Is it a Dangerous Vaccine?

Nowadays, many people worry that this vaccine may be dangerous for their kids.

After getting the vaccine, two children died from an accelerated form of ALS and the Lou Gehrig’s disease. These are both very rare neurological disorders. However, the Institute of Medicine found no evidence whatsoever that these deaths were caused by the HPV vaccine.

Actually, in all 35 million people who were vaccinated, only 35 deaths were reported. There is no evidence that these are a result of the vaccine, either.

Considering this, the opinions of experts also vary:

“We have not identified a significant likelihood of serious adverse events following vaccine. This is a very safe vaccine.” – says Bocchini, the chairman at Louisiana State University in Shreveport.

Still, even Bocchini does not share the opinion that kids are required to get the vaccine. He and many other scientists think it is essential to educate the people about the infection, its consequences and the vaccine and leave the decision to the parents.

Since it is not mandatory, some parents choose to go ahead and get the vaccine for their kids. This is understandable since they fear that something may happen to them in future because they decided not to vaccinate.

Others will choose to take the time and think, while there will be a third group that chooses not to use the vaccine for HPV.

Therefore, the choice is left to the parent. All experts can do at this point is research and present the data to the public to make their decision-making process an easier task.

As for controversy, this is something that will probably exist forever.


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