By Lauren Schrader
Lauren is a mother of three who lives in Austin
When I took my 11-year-old daughter to the pediatrician for her yearly check-up, he recommended the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination. My response: I didn’t want to introduce ideas about sexual activity when I knew she wasn’t sexually active yet. So I decided to put off the shot and the discussion about it.
Professionally, I work on a vaccination program, so I’m a vaccine believer. And my kids were up to date on all their other vaccines. So why my hesitation?
I know HPV vaccine (three shots required for full protection, by the way) works better if given before an adolescent becomes sexually active. I am confident in its safety. In fact, several physicians assured me of its safety. I guess I really just didn’t want to think about my daughter being involved in the kinds of behavior that lead to this disease.
So for the next year, I deliberated over the decision. I talked with friends and family, who were on both sides of the fence.
At some point along the way, my thinking started to change. What if a future sexual partner exposed her to the disease? By no fault of her own, she could get HPV.
And then I started to think about cancer. I was seeing articles talking about the cancers that can be caused by HPV – cervical, head and neck, oral, and the like. As a two-time cancer survivor myself, I knew I’d much rather prevent cancer than treat it. That saves time and money, and emotional toll.
When my daughter’s check-up rolled around the next year, I spoke privately with the doctor. Even though my husband and I had decided to have our daughter vaccinated, I wanted my doctor’s advice about how to explain the HPV vaccination. His response was simple: “It prevents cancer.” And that’s what we told her. No discussions about sex, just an attempt to prevent something for her that she’d watched me go through. She didn’t question.
Now my youngest daughter is about to turn 12. I won’t hesitate about getting her vaccinated at her well-check.