The main sources of the debate, to be sure, involve political and ideological preferences rather than scientific realities. The main resistance to requiring the HPV shot for teenage girls seems to be that providing this HPV shot will encourage teenage sexual risk-taking and that this sexual promiscuity, in turn, will weaken certain social and moral values.
Specifically, it has been noted with reference to this debate that “adolescents may not fully comprehend the utility of the HPV vaccine and may overgeneralize the vaccine to include ‘protection’ against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome” (Vamos, Mcdermott, and Daley 180).
This is a disingenuous type of counterargument because it relies upon the contraction of a potential medical condition, AIDS, which kills far less women annually than HPV. The evidence suggests that the HPV shot will save many women, adolescents can receive educational or orientation programs about the precise purposes and limitations of the HPV shot when it is administered, and this is a diversionary argument that promotes particular moral values rather than dealing with the exact medical issues.
Related to this counterargument regarding a false sense of security provided by the HPV shot, it has been argued in a nearly identical manner that “Childhood immunizations, such as measles, chicken pox, and polio, are mandatory for school-aged youth and are required because of their highly contagious nature” (Vamos, Mcdermott, and Daley 181) and that these viruses transmitted through the air should be distinguished from viruses that are instead transmitted through sexual activities.
Again, the counterargument is reduced, in effect, to an argument against teenage sexual activity rather than a criticism of the effectiveness of the HPV shot itself. This is extraordinarily troubling because it creates a higher public value for moral and religious values than for female public health.
The counterarguments, being nothing more than carefully disguised political and religious objections to teenage sexual activity which routinely occurs despite attempts to stifle it, are tangential and should be treated as personal religious and moral objections rather than scientifically-grounded objections.
Finally, within the context of the history of vaccines, the implications of not requiring the HPV shots are discriminatory and riddled with hypocrisies. One medical scholar, after summarizing the available empirical evidence detailing the effectiveness of the HPV shot, laments almost sarcastically by posing a rhetorical question asking “If this vaccine combated a virus that caused precancerous and cancerous conditions in boys and men only, would we be confronted with the same level of controversy and reticence about its deployment?”
(Daley and Mcdermott 184). Women are being treated as delicate creatures, unable to control their sexual urges, and therefore public policy must withhold a proven vaccine in order to maintain their sexual dignity and moral purity. Such characterizations of preposterous, they harken back to medieval representations of women, and they have no place in discussions involving serious public health crises that can be prevented.
Taken to its logical extreme, the counterargument seems to imply that teenage women or young women daring to engage in sexual activities will just have to risk cancer and other consequences. This is immoral and has no place in any objective public health debate.
This is not meant to suggest that abstinence is bad, indeed it is a perfectly acceptable private decision that belongs to the individual, but a public policy must be premised on the public good rather than personal and private moral beliefs. The public good, in the instant debate, demands requiring HPV shots for teenage girls as an integral part of the immunization process.