HPV vaccine decision is now teen's to make

Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

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DEAR AMY: I am an 18-year-old senior in high school. I am about to graduate and go to college. At my yearly checkup, my doctor suggests that I get the HPV vaccine. My mother hems and haws and ultimately decides that, no, I should not get the vaccine. Her reasoning is that sex will wait until after marriage, so there is no risk of my getting HPV and therefore no need for the vaccination. I think she is burying her head in the sand. She is banking on the idea that I will not have sex until I am married, that I will have sex with only one person and that one person will only have sex with me. I know that all of these things are extraordinarily unlikely. I'd like to get the vaccine. I'd feel safer, especially because I am aware that I will probably be sexually active. To disclose this to my mother would open up a whole new can of worms, probably resulting in my wearing a chastity belt. How should I approach this subject with her? Is there a way that I can convince her that it is more practical for me to get the vaccine? Worried StudentDEAR WORRIED: You and your doctor have already discussed this with your mother.

The HPV vaccine is given to inoculate women against the human papillomavirus, which can lead to cervical cancer (and other cancers) later in life. This vaccine is usually offered to girls and young women before they become sexually active, thus eliminating the risk that they have already been exposed to the virus through sexual contact.

At age 18, you no longer have to ask your mother's permission to receive a vaccine. As a legal adult, your medical and sexual choices are now your own to make. I appreciate that you realize how serious these choices are and suggest you do some research to see how you can receive this vaccine -- as well as accurate information about sex and birth control. A great source for information is Planned Parenthood; visit plannedparenthood.org.