Unknown in '99, Indispensable Now

#5

Gardasil

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A Texas teenager receives a shot of Gardasil

A Texas teenager receives a shot of Gardasil

When we’re discussing HPV (human papillomavirus), we’re talking about a virus that’s clearly associated with several types of cancer. Gardasil, the vaccine, curtails that—so it’s egregious to me that many Americans think vaccinating adolescents against HPV will encourage sexual promiscuity. There’s categorical evidence that vaccinating a young person will not make her more promiscuous; if that was true, I wouldn’t stand so strongly behind this vaccination. Instead, these shots will give women the opportunity to protect themselves. Whether or not young adults are promiscuous may not change; that’s not the problem. Kids are going to explore. But rather than having another generation that cowers with fear, we’re giving young people the opportunity to take command of their health and to make their own responsible choices. If you look at significant advances in medicine throughout history, we’re mainly talking about two things: sanitation and vaccination. With Gardasil, we are redoubling our efforts on the latter, which is what we should be doing these days. When it comes to young people’s health and communicable diseases, this is a huge deal; young people today tend to actually be less promiscuous than we think, or than my generation was, but these diseases continue to spread. To fight this, Gardasil sets a great precedent for other vaccines that treat sexually transmitted infections. There’s no doubt to me that there will be shots for HIV and Herpes one day soon, and Gardasil is a good way to get people to start thinking about that possibility. 

Pinsky is a board-certified M.D. and addiction specialist. Follow him on Twitter.

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