Family Groups Welcome New Vaccine against Cervical Cancer, STD

Christian groups expressed support for a new vaccine that protects women against cervical cancer caused by a sexually transmitted disease but maintained that abstinence before marriage and fidelity within marriage are still the best ways to protect against a range of illnesses.

Last month, Merck and GlaxoSmithKline – the companies that developed the new vaccine – said the new treatment seemed to provide 100 percent protection against common forms of human papillomavirus (HPV), which can cause cancer in the outer end of the uterus. Both companies have said that the way to most effectively use the vaccine would be to give it to males and females before they become sexually active. The drug is still waiting for approval from the Food and Drug administration.

The Family Research Council, which promotes abstinence, has said that it will monitor the progress of the vaccine as it goes through the approval process “to ensure that there is full disclosure to the public of what these vaccines can and cannot achieve, their efficacy, and their risks (including side effects and benefits),” as stated FRC president Tony Perkins.

While groups such as the National Cervical Cancer Coalition, have expressed their desire to see the HPV vaccine be made into requirement for high school students, some conservative Christian groups, including the FRC and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, have opposed making the vaccine mandatory.

“I’ve talked to some who have said, ‘This is going to sabotage our abstinence message,’” said Gene Rudd, associate executive director of the CMDA, according to the Washington Post. However, he added that he believed people would likely want to immunize their children as they learned more about it.

“Parents should have the choice,” he said. “There are those who would say, ‘we can provide a better, healthier alternative than the vaccine, and that is to teach abstinence.’”

A representative from Merck said he wasn’t opposed to such views.

"It is not our intention in any way, shape or form to promote our vaccine as a substitute for any other prevention approach, be it abstinence or screening," said Mark Feinberg, vice president of medical affairs and policy for Merck.

However he added that if the goal was to reduce the rates of cervical cancer “as much as possible as quickly as possible, then you want as many people to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” according to the Washington Post.

The FRC said that it advocates an informed choice by parents, and while welcoming the medical progress, there are still many instances where abstinence is a preferred method of combating disease.

"While we welcome medical advances such as an HPV vaccine, it remains clear that practicing abstinence until marriage and fidelity within marriage is the single best way of preventing the full range of sexually transmitted diseases, unwanted pregnancies, and negative psychological and emotional consequences that can result from sexual activity outside marriage," stated the organization.