I recently felt compelled to question an article that appeared in our church bulletin, which was submitted by the school nurse and recommended 11- and 12-year-old children receive the HPV vaccine. Indeed, it appeared from the article that the HPV vaccine is mandatory, including it with other vaccines required by the Department of Health and Hospitals.

This is misleading.

The HPV vaccine is very controversial, even becoming an opportunity in the past two Republican presidential debates for the other candidates to slam Gov. Rick Perry, who mandated vaccinations for schoolgirls in Texas after receiving a sizeable donation from the manufacturer. His rebuttal was not convincing.

Risk factors for HPV infections (which rarely result in cervical cancer) include having sex at an early age and/or having multiple sexual partners. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of January 2011, there have been 68 deaths and more than 18,000 adverse reactions, some minor and temporary, a greater number severe and some permanent.

The vaccine provides boys no protection against any cancers, only against the discomfort and/or embarrassment of genital warts.

Mandatory vaccination has been opposed by the American College of Pediatrics and the New England Journal of Medicine. Friends of mine in the medical profession are vehemently opposed to this vaccine.

By the way, the vaccine, which has been marketed aggressively, costs $400, only lasts three years for boys, five years for girls and requires boosters.

As a grandmother, an article of this sort appearing in a trusted church bulletin gives me great concern. I initially thought the article, which covered several topics, might have been copied from another source with little thought to what it actually said. Then I remembered it first came up a few months ago when an article appeared encouraging 18-year-old women to “consider” the vaccine.

Is this another insidious attempt to see how far this vaccine could be pushed before anyone objected? I hope not, but it reminds me of the longtime pro-lifers who say they never expected abortion to become brazenly touted as women’s health care and wonder what more they should have done early on.

As parents and grandparents, we sometimes want to save our children from the consequences of their poor choices. Whether you are a church-going family or not, if you are deeply concerned about spiritual and moral issues or are just trying to put food on the table, it seems wiser to teach our children to lead healthy and holy lives, assisting them in building the character and self-discipline necessary to avoid the dangerous physical, emotional and spiritual pitfalls of early sexual activity.

Would we rather invest the time to guide our children now or give them a vaccine at 11, birth control at 14, sexually transmitted disease treatment at 15 and an abortion at 16?

Linda Poché

retired DHH employee

Baton Rouge