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Recently friends of mine, who have been dating for 3 years and recently graduated from college, moved in together. This was a development that was not met with pleasure by the parents of the male in the relationship. Not long after they moved in the father says to his son “well, I guess now you’re living with her you should probably think about getting the HPV vaccine.”

There are so many things that I find problematic about this statement that I feel the need to talk about them because they do relate to an overall issue going on right now.

1. Just because they are living together doesn’t mean they are having sex.

Yes, it’s a naive view to take, but it is possible. I do know men and women who live together (and some of whom are dating) and they don’t have sex. It is humanly possible to restrain oneself even if living in close quarters with a member of the opposite sex.

2. This is highly offensive to the woman in the relationship.

Think about it. The statement made by the father implies that he believes his son (who is just out of college) has never had sex before, but that the girl has obviously had sex and probably unprotected sex at that. It’s just a small thing in the overall scheme of things, but it is a somewhat offensive view point to take.

3. It’s highly naive.

If you think that your son or daughter (who has no religious predication to abstinence) has gone through high school and college in the US without having a single sexual interaction then you are being highly naive. I get that a lot  parents are hopeful that their child will be the one who never has sex, and I know that there are people who go through college and beyond without having sex, but those people are rare today, and personally if I were a parent I would rather know my child were safe (through a vaccine) than in a state of ignorance that means my child remains unprotected.

4. It misses the point of the HPV vaccine.

This seems to be what so many people are missing. The point of the HPV vaccine is so that a person is protected from HPV BEFORE they start having sex. In the cases of all other vaccines we tend to try and give them before exposure. We generally (putting aside arguments against vaccines in general and people who don’t want them) don’t wait until after we’ve been exposed to measles before we get the measles vaccine. We get it long before, and in fact never plan on being exposed to it. Vaccines are more effective when given before exposure, so why not give the HPV vaccine long before a person might have any sexual contact with another person?

5. Getting the vaccine doesn’t cause unsafe sex

In the same way that being circumcised doesn’t cause men to have unsafe sex because they know they’re less likely to catch STIs because they are circumcised. Just because I got the HPV vaccine doesn’t mean that I decided I was free to go and have unprotected sex with every guy I saw. In fact, I didn’t even begin to think about it like that. I figured that there was another vaccine that could protect me against something in the chance I was exposed, the same reason I got a tetanus vaccine. I don’t plan on stabbing myself with rusty nails covered in tetanus, but just in case I can be protected.

The conversation had between that father and son just triggered the rant that I have had frequently about this topic. I just don’t understand why the HPV vaccine is different from any other vaccine. I am not arguing for or against vaccination in general, but if you are happy to give your child all other vaccinations the doctor suggests why wouldn’t you be happy to protect them against one more potential danger by giving them the HPV vaccine?