There were apparently some ruffled feathers yesterday when Gov. Jerry Brown signed AB499 into law. As of January 2012, children ages 12 and older will be able to get the HPV vaccine without parental consent. The social conservatives think that the vaccine is a license for wanton pre-teen sex and the anti-vaxxers are worried our youth will be filled with toxins doing all kinds of terrible harm to their bodies.
My answer? Get over yourselves.
In California every 12-year-old can already consent to getting contraception, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, prenatal care, and giving their child up for adoption without parental consent or notification. And while technically California law says parental consent is required for abortion, the law is held up in legal wrangling (too complex for my wee brain) and the enforcement of parental notification for abortion is “enjoined by a court order so the policy is not in effect.”
So, how different is getting the HPV vaccine? Not at all. It is just an extension of the emancipation of reproductive rights. It is laughable that a 12-year-old could consent to having her genital warts treated, but not to get the vaccine that could PREVENT THEM.
Whether parents and social conservatives care to accept it or not, kids have sex. Lots of kids and lots of sex: in fact 8% of 13-year-olds are already sexually active. The HPV vaccine (or contraception or STI screening for that matter) does not make kids have more sex in the same way that wearing a seat belt does not make kids drive any more irresponsibly.
And anti-vaccine folks. Well, since there is no credible evidence to support the idea that the HPV vaccine causes any serious short or long-term negative sequelae, get over yourselves. Of the 32 temporally associated deaths with the HPV vaccine (out of millions of doses) none have been causally linked to the vaccine. And a large meta-analysis has confirmed that side effects are the same with the vaccine as with placebo injection.
And what if my boys came home at the age of 12 and told me they got the HPV vaccine without my consent?
Well, since I will probably have them get vaccinated around age 11, that scenario is unlikely. But say they did.
I would be proud that they thought ahead to act responsibly. I would be proud that they listened to me about the importance of prevention, and I would use it as a great opportunity to talk once again about safe sex and good choices.