EDIT: Controversy over mandatory HPV vaccination in the state of California.

13 February 2007

A bill recently introduced to the California legislature would require all female children to be vaccinated for HPV (human papilloma virus, which causes some forms of cervical cancer and genital warts). Parents, however, are outraged by this bill because the vaccine would protect against a virus that is technically a sexually transmitted disease. Some are going so far as to say that it encourages teenage sex and promiscuity.

I hate to tell them (well, no, I don't, but allow me the figure of speech) but women are not exposed to HPV solely through sex; it is not uncommon for rape to be a factor in disease exposure, and it makes good sense to cover all the bases. Also, vaccinations are not only for children - the immunity they confer is lifelong, and would protect women against HPV exposure when they are adults as well. As for whether or not this vaccine would encourage irresponsible sexual activity, I strongly doubt that it would be a factor. Teens will be teens and short of locking every last teenager up (oh, wait, that's what high school is for...) you can't stomp out sex among them. We've all seen the studies that show that abstinence education is,in a word, worthless, and the studies that show that honest sex education can lower the teenage sex rate (mostly because laying out the risks, complete with photographs and videotapes, scares the hell out of 'em).

I wonder how much of this is tied into the movement that refuses any vaccination of children because they think it causes autism (due to the mercury-containing preservative thimerosol, which actually isn't used anymore)...

As many as 50% of all people will be exposed to HPV during their lives; men can carry it, women can contract it.