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Washington, D.C. and four states are requiring sixth-grade girls to receive the three-shot Gardasil vaccine before entering school this year. Gardasil protects against the “four strains of the sexually transmitted Human Pappilomavirus (HPV)” most likely to cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

Mandating that girls receive the vaccine at age 11 or 12 (there is currently no vaccine for boys) strikes me as a not-bad idea for the following reasons:

(a) D.C. has the highest rate of cervical cancer in the nation
(b) D.C. has one of the most sexually active teen populations in the nation
(c) 80 percent of sexually active teens contract HPV
(d) condoms don’t protect against it
(e) it’s CDC and FDA-approved for women ages 9 to 26
(f) Gardasil has been criticized for marketing the vaccine to the women least at risk for cervical cancer—-all the more reason for D.C. to mandate it for the girls most at risk.

And yet, media coverage of the vaccine in recent weeks has focused almost uniformly on the bogeyman du jour—- The Vaccine—-instead of that other scary thing—-The Virus. Check out the following story ledes about Gardasil:

CNN:Should Your Daughter Get Gardasil, the Vaccine Against HPV?“:

When Raffi Darrow brought in her two daughters, Wendy and Alice, for their annual back-to-school checkups this week, for the first time in her career as a mom, Darrow decided to be a rebel.

Raffi Darrow decided not to get the HPV vaccine for daughters Wendy, left, 11, and Alice, 12.

Even though every federal health authority says her girls, ages 11 and 12, should get Gardasil, the vaccine that helps protect against cervical cancer and genital warts caused by the human papillomavirus, Darrow instructed the pediatrician not to give it to them.

“Up until now my children have had every vaccine doctors have recommended,” says Darrow, a graphic designer in St. Petersburg, Florida. “But most friends, like me, fear the safety of something new.”

CBS Evening News:New Worries About Gardasil Safety“:

Gabby Swank was a straight-A student and cheerleader.

But that was before she became very ill following the standard dose of three Gardasil vaccinations, Attkisson reports.

You know the commercial. It showed teenage girls saying “I want to be one less” who gets the HPV virus, which is linked to cervical cancer.

“It was like a big hype among my friends, because we’re like, ‘we’re gonna get it’ because we felt almost pressured by the commercials,” Gabby said.

ABC News:Parents Doubt Gardasil’s Safety“:

“I thought I was protecting my daughter.”

Tammy Harper, 42, now fears that vaccinating her 14-year old daughter against several strains of the human papilloma virus, or HPV, may not have been the right thing to do.

Harper, from Merrit Island, Fla., is one of many parents gripped by doubt about the safety of Gardasil, the 3-dose vaccine that promises to protect against cancer-causing HPV infections, following media reports this week on government data that called the vaccine’s safety into question.

Politely: What the fuck are you people doing? Moms who don’t get vaccines for their kids are “rebels.” A cheerleader who got sick—-maybe from the vaccine, maybe not—-was “pressured” by the television commercials. Parents now regret giving the vaccine to their children “following media reports”—-and is it at all surprising, giving the flavor of the coverage? With all due respect, “parents”  and Not one of these stories leads with a girl and her parent who receive the vaccine and walk away feeling better that she’s been protected from a virus that she almost certainly would have contracted otherwise. Not one focuses on the increased HPV risk for girls in low-income and African-American communities. Not one gives more than a passing consideration to the benefits of the vaccine. Each story packages the worst fears of parents into tidy network news stories to help inform the decisions of other parents. And each story concedes that media reports are one of the biggest factors in a parent’s decision about getting the vaccine.

I’m all about knowing your options—-and for the record, D.C. parents, you can opt out of the Gardasil mandate if you so choose. But keep in mind that your options aren’t:

(a) ruin the life of a cheerleader by opting for Gardasil, or
(b) become a cool rebel mom by rejecting the vaccine.

I don’t know: Maybe consult a doctor instead?