Parents debate HPV vaccinationby Michael Caputo, Minnesota Public Radio
Even though legislation requiring 12-year-old girls to get the HPV vaccine has been put on hold, parents are still left with a decision. Should they have their daughters vaccinated? HPV is sexually transmitted disease that can lead to cancer. But some parents say there are larger issues to consider.
St. Paul, Minn. — Micki Lechner-Riehle of Burnsville said she talks openly with her daughter about sexuality. So when she discussed getting the series of vaccinations to protect her from HPV, Lechner-Riehle said it wasn't emotionally charged.
But as Lechner-Riehle talked to her daughter she stressed she was speaking from experience.
"I have this virus," she said. "I hope this is something you will never get."
Some people have criticized the vaccine as tantamount to encouraging girls to be sexually active. Lechner-Riehle doesn't buy that for a minute. She wants to protect her daughter. But she also wants her daughter to know the vaccine isn't fool-proof, and she still needs to be careful should she become sexually active.
"That doesn't mean that you can just throw caution to the wind," she said. "You still need to be sensible and use protection but you can't assume anything."
MPR interviewed Lechner-Riehle before Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, announced Tuesday that she is removing a requirement from her HPV vaccine bill that all 12-year-old girls get the shots. Instead the measure which is still being debated in the legislature would require further study of the vaccine and of its impact on cervical cancer.
Lechner-Riehle supported mandatory vaccination. She said she hoped the bill might open the eyes of those who oppose vaccination on moral grounds.
"They have that little bit of information and they're not going to really be able to make an informed decision," Lechner-Riehle said. "So that's one reason why I think making it mandatory might reopen that discussion so that people say… all right what does it really, what's it all about."
In Winona, Brenda Jannsen is a mother of four children, two girls and two boys. She opposes requiring the vaccine. She has already told her older daughter that premarital sex is wrong. And Jannsen is already worried how she might talk to her daughter about the vaccine. A government requirement, Jannsen said, would only make a tough talk harder.
"I would also have to say that the government expects that teenagers are going to have pre-marital sex... and I that I don't agree with that," Jannsen said. "And I don't know how I could explain that our government thinks that."
Other people's opposition is more scientific than moral. Fadwa Wazwaz of Brooklyn Park is the mother of a nearly seven-year-old girl. She is skeptical of the vaccine's benefits and wants to see more testing. So she was upset by the way Merck and Company, which makes the vaccine, lobbied state legislatures around the country to pass laws to require the vaccine.
"This is being pushed by a very giant pharmaceutical company who has a lot to profit from this decision," Wazwaz said. "So do doctors who are getting incentives from these companies. And sometimes politicians who are getting money from that pharmaceutical company."
Merck suspended its lobbying campaign on Tuesday. Company officials said the lobbying effort was becoming a distraction.
The original version of the Minnesota bill to require the HPV vaccination was aimed at the 2009-2010 school year. Rep. Kahn said she now wants the state to publicize that the vaccine is currently available.
- Morning Edition, 02/22/2007, 7:54 a.m.