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Would there be any moral objection to obtaining the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine against the sexually transmitted virus that causes cervical cancer for my teenager?

Family Matters

Accurate information regarding the vaccine is needed to answer this question correctly. In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Gardasil as a vaccine that protects against two common strains of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers. The vaccine also protects against two other strains of the virus that cause 90 percent of genital warts.

Since its approval, parents have been asking about the morality of vaccination. Some argue that the vaccination encourages a young adult to engage in promiscuous sexual activity, while others think it sends the wrong message that illicit sexual behavior doesn’t have any consequences. These are legitimate concerns, and parents should make sure to address them with their children. But — do these possible immoral eventualities render the act of getting vaccinated immoral?

The National Catholic Bioethics Center (NCBC) released a statement saying, “(P)arents should know that there is no moral objection to the vaccine itself, and the prevalence of HPV in the reproductive age population makes the possibility of exposure to the virus significant.”
While the NCBC considers HPV vaccination to be a morally acceptable method of protecting against this disease, it does ask that civil authorities leave the decision to vaccinate or not to parents, who are the primary educators for their children. That is why I would advise all parents to begin regular conversations with their children about God’s plan for each of us as sexual beings.

Talk with your children and emphasize that the most effective way to avoid contracting any sexually transmitted disease is to abstain from sexual activity before marriage and to remain faithful within marriage. Share with your children that sex can only be sacred and beautiful within the context of marriage.

Whether you decide to have your children inoculated or not, look at a discussion on Gardasil as an opportunity to provide positive education on chastity. Help your children understand that sex outside of marriage and non-consensual sex threaten a person’s health and happiness.﷯ Finally, remind your children that the vaccine is not a panacea. Rather, it is a preventative action. Tell them that the only 100 percent﷯ protection against HPV and cervical cancer is abstinence. Make your expectations about sexual purity clear to them.

By Alice Heinzen
Director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life

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