By Scott Tibbs, February 25, 2015
A couple weeks ago, I argued that the Measles vaccine (and vaccines for other highly contagious communicable diseases) should be mandatory in order to protect public health. This is a case where the rights of the public to not be infected should supersede individual choice, under the principle that "your right to swing your fist ends when you touch my nose." But one proposal that should be rejected is the idea of mandatory vaccinations of all children for the human papillomavirus, or HPV. This was proposed by the Indiana state legislature.
(See previous articles from September 20, 2011 and December 31, 2005 and February 28, 2007.)
The big difference is that HPV is a sexually transmitted disease, and therefore an infected person cannot pass it to someone else unless there is sexual contact between the two. Someone who has HPV cannot infect anyone else unless that person is sexually intimate with the infected person. Whether we want to admit it or not, the HPV vaccine does send a dangerous message that sexual intimacy outside of marriage is less dangerous, and there are many consequences of sexual immorality that go beyond sexually transmitted diseases.
Since HPV is spread in a very specific way, it should be up to the parents to decide whether or not their children (usually daughters) will get the vaccine. I do not have a problem with the vaccine itself or with parents choosing it, and if I had a daughter I would probably encourage her to get the vaccine as an extra safeguard. The potentially dangerous moral message can be overcome by instruction in morality. Plus, it is possible that even a faithful married person can contract HPV from a spouse who was infected before the marriage happened or is unfaithful.
But making the HPV vaccine mandatory is a step too far. It does not protect public health, and instead intrudes on a private medical decision that is properly made by families and their doctors. It also intrudes on parents' God-given authority over their children's welfare. I fully support giving information on the vaccine and full information on its effectiveness. But this is not a decision that should be made by the government.