This week I came across this article by Mary Beth Bonacchi about the dire side effects surfacing among girls who were recently vaccinated with Gardasil. She did not address my original concerns about protecting girls in the event of sexual assault (Bonacchi contends that girls are “100% safe” if they remain chaste before marriage to an uninfected partner). However, I do agree that in light of the 29 reported deaths (see link below to the CBS report on this), regular medical screenings for those exposed to HPV may need to suffice until a safer and more effective vaccine may be found.
In 2007 I wrote an article on Catholic Exchange that expressed concern about parents (especially parents of older teens) who refuse to have their daughters vaccinated as a way to ensure they would remain chaste before marriage. Because of the prevalence of sexual assault, because men can carry the virus without being symptomatic, and because the vaccine has to be administered before the woman becomes sexually active — before pregnancy is a concern — at that time I felt that parents could make a prudential judgment in favor of the vaccine.
However, in light of this CBS report about the many girls who have now died or experienced life-threatening conditions after receiving the vaccine (whether or not it could be proven that the vaccine was the direct cause), I can only conclude that the wise parent should wait until a safe alternative to the Merck Gardasil vaccine is found.
I still believe that if we do our job as parents, and teach our children about the benefits of remaining chaste before marriage (including not only “technical” virginity but the importance of safeguarding the heart as well), a safe vaccine would not undo that. To me, it would be like giving my daughter self-defense lessons — a safeguard measure, to protect her from situations beyond her control.
But until the vaccine is as safe as kick-boxing or tai kwan do, I’ll wait.