Would You Give Your Daughter the HPV Vaccine?

Michele Norris talks with Nancy Trainer, who lives in McLean, Va., and has a 3-year-old daughter. She is interested in the new HPV vaccine and its implications for her daughter.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

We're joined now by Nancy Trainer. She's a parent and she lives in McLean, Virginia. Nancy, when did you first hear about the HPV vaccine?

Ms. NANCY TRAINER: I probably first heard about it when the District of Columbia was thinking about mandating the vaccine for middle aged school children.

NORRIS: Now, some parents have bristled at the idea of the state telling them what they should do. Is that a concern at all for you? Do you think the state should be mandating this kind of thing?

Ms. TRAINER: I think this particular virus presents a big challenge in terms of making that calculation. I'm very glad that I'm not an elected official who is charged with making it. You know, you have to weigh all of the standard things that you weigh every time you're talking about vaccinations - risk of some sort of adverse reaction, the cost of vaccinating, versus the very real risk, in this case, of infection that leads to cervical cancer that leads to death.

Now, the numbers in terms of death are very low, thankfully. But on the other hand, how exactly do you measure a human life, and what exactly are the costs of living with this virus for many years? It's a complicated calculus.

NORRIS: And I imagine, it made more complicated because you're talking about a disease and infection that is linked to a sexually transmitted disease?

Ms. TRAINER: Right. Right. Absolutely.

NORRIS: For some parents, the snag was the age at which this vaccine is given. They're not comfortable with the idea that the vaccine would be administered to girls before their first sexual experience or at an age when parents hope that their daughters weren't even thinking about this kind of thing. Is that a concern for you?

Ms. TRAINER: I don't think that's a concern. I think if this vaccine gets parents and children talking about sex, then that's a good thing. If you think that our child doesn't need to be discussing sex by the age of 11 or 12, I think you probably have your head a little bit too much in the sand. Even if your children aren't having sex, it's actually a great age at which to begin a discussion about it.

NORRIS: Nancy, would you ask your doctor to give your daughter this vaccine even if it weren't mandated?

Ms. TRAINER: Yeah. I really think I will. I think that the risks from this vaccine are pretty minimal from what I've read. And if I can do something to prevent my daughter from coming down with a deadly disease, I'm very interested in doing it.

NORRIS: If I were able to eavesdrop on a conversation among parents, let's say at a local Starbucks in your neighborhood where people were talking about this, what would I hear?

Ms. TRAINER: You'd probably hear people asking a lot of questions about why HPV is a big deal. I think most of us just want to learn more about why should be worried about this disease. There are so many things we parents worry about. So having one more item on the list is pretty hard when we're already worried about so much.

NORRIS: There is a lot of debate about this vaccine and many concerns. And one of them is that the drug company is actually driving this. This is really in the end all about profits.

Ms. TRAINER: Of course. They're in the business to make money. Aren't we all? I think we can have a valid debate about whether drug companies make too much money. But just telling me that a drug company will make money doesn't really tell me anything about whether the drug is effective, whether it's safe or whether it should be mandated or not.

NORRIS: Nancy Trainer, thank you so much for talking to us.

Ms. TRAINER: Thank you.

NORRIS: Nancy Trainer is a parent and she lives in McLean, Virginia.

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