Parenting vs. the HPV Vaccine (Like This Wasn’t Hard Enough Already!)

Posted on Aug 15th 2018 by Elizabeth Dickson RN, MSN

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When it comes to the safety and well-being of our children, as parents we’re faced with a constant stream of decisions. Everything from organic foods to screen time to “Does Little Johnny need to wear a sweater today?” becomes a decision for parents to navigate—and everyone seems to have an opinion.

In the age of social media and sharing, we can easily see other people’s thoughts and feelings about every topic under the sun. When a topic goes viral and is heavily debated, it can be hard to sort out fact from fiction. A perfect example of this is whether to immunize your child. And specific to vaccines, among the most passionately discussed is the human papillomavirus  vaccine, commonly referred to as HPV.

Before I became a parent, I approached this topic solely as a nurse. The answer to me seemed so obvious: The vaccine prevents cancer, so why wouldn’t any parent do this for their child? To be perfectly honest, I didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. The universe has a sense of humor, though. The moment I became a mother, all that nursing stuff went out the window. I now saw the world through a completely different (and often overwhelming) perspective. I now had a tiny human being depending on me for his survival – and I didn’t have a clue what I was doing!

Although my son is only in preschool, I’m notorious for overplanning and overprepping. (I had anxiety about choosing the right daycare center from the moment I learned I was pregnant!) So, true to form, I began reading information online about the HPV vaccine—the articles, comments, arguments and skepticism. My Mother Bear instincts kicked in, and I became highly suspicious of this strange new vaccine that claimed to prevent cancer. Does this vaccine work? What are the long-term side effects? Will it encourage my son to start having sex?

My mind quickly became a swirling, confused mess of internal debate. My nursing background made the choice seem so obvious. But nothing can ever truly prepare you for the weight of parenthood. It’s the most difficult, amazing, challenging, joyous, insane, indescribable role you will ever play in your life! And the desire to protect your little person from the dangers of the world can sometimes make the right choice seem incredibly unclear.

So I did my own research. I checked the validity of the information I was reading. I considered the source of the information, and I confronted my own personal fears and uncertainties as a mother. I considered all sides of the argument, but in the end, I always remembered to take a step back from the emotional aspect of the decision at hand and focus on the facts.

In the end, you as a parent will have the ultimate choice as to whether your child will be vaccinated or not. In this day and age, everyone has an opinion on everything, and this can be annoying and confusing (and did I mention annoying?) as you try to make the best decisions for the well-being of your child. As a parent, I urge you to do your own research, consider the source and acknowledge any apprehensions that you may be having. Have a candid conversation with your child’s pediatrician. Be honest with your concerns and ask lots of questions. You can also check out the HPV resources available from the American Cancer Society at They offer some great information targeted specifically to parents that you may find helpful.

Hang in there, moms and dads! At times the road through parenthood can get a little bumpy, but this beautiful journey is well worth it. #preventionmatters

Filed under: Education  

Elizabeth Dickson RN, MSN

Elizabeth is a Registered Nurse who is native of Jacksonville, Florida. When she isn’t crafting health care improvement strategies, she stays busy chasing her toddler, snuggling her French bulldog, and guzzling ALL the coffee. Elizabeth loves lighthouses, corny ghost chaser TV shows, and anything related to the Titanic.

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