The manufacturer of Gardasil, in the name of public health, is calling for the government to mandate this as yet another vaccination required for school entry. This may make sense in a third-world country, where access to Pap smears is poor and the chances of using a condom are culturally slim, but in the US this seems over-the-top. How about instead, in the name of public health, halting the confusion of conflicting messages about sexual activity?
I know that once my kids are teens I will have very little to say about how they exercise their judgment. What I can hope for is that through honest dialogue I am preparing them now for the decisions they will be making on their own. One of the lessons we emphasize is that actions have consequences. Pushing Gardasil as the solution to a culturally created problem takes personal and societal responsibilities out of the equation. Yes, we may avoid a few cases of cervical cancer and even deaths from it, but we will have forgone the opportunity to teach our children to exercise their personal choices, responsibility and common sense. Moreover, we will be promoting further the culture of "a pill for everything", a philosophy that has brought our healthcare "system" to the brink of bankruptcy and our nation to unprecedented rates of bad behavior.
In view of the recent questions about the vaccine's risk-benefit profile, caution is needed more than ever. Vaccines should be mandated for highly infectious diseases spread via casual contact, likely to cause unmitigatable and frequent morbidity and mortality, and only if their benefits outweigh their risks. Gardasil fails this entire formula: HPV is pretty hard to get, cervical cancer is nearly 100% curable if detected early, and the vaccine's risk-benefit profile is in question. It is entirely clear that HPV is not smallpox. Let's stop pushing this false panacea on our kids and get back to teaching them the valuable skills and judgment that will serve them well as good people and responsible citizens of our nation.