Why I’m Vaccinating my Frum Daughter for HPV by Anonymous

Why I’m Vaccinating my Frum Daughter for HPV by Anonymous

My dad works in cancer research at Georgetown University Medical Center and one of his colleagues there helped develop the groundbreaking vaccine for HPV (the Human Papillomavirus) which is the main cause of cervical as well as other kinds of cancer. This vaccine has the potential to save the lives of over 150,000 people every year and has no known significant side effects. Recently the Israeli Ministry of Health mandated that starting this year all 8th grade girls will have the option to receive the HPV vaccine in their schools. However, this vaccination has been met with quite a bit of resistance in the religious community since HPV is sexually transmitted.

I have a daughter in 8th grade, and in order to honor her saba who devotes his life to saving lives from cancer, she is definitely getting the vaccine when it will be administered by the school nurse. Another reason my daughter will be getting the vaccine is in the merit of my friend, an amazing JewishMOM, whom I saw wither away and endure horrific suffering before she, like 275,000 women each year across the world, lost her own battle with cervical cancer. But from what I hear from my daughter, most of her classmates will not be receiving the vaccine. “Frum girls don’t get sexually transmitted diseases!” the vaccine’s opponents contend. “And even if some frum girls do, MY daughter won’t!”

I guess I’m not the only person thinking about the HPV Vaccination controversy, since this week I received the following anonymous letter from a mother who will also be vaccinating her daughters against HPV:

My husband was the first boy I dated, B”H. I was 19 and he was 23 when we got married. When we met, my husband was learning in a yeshiva in Yerushalayim and working towards getting smicha and I had just finished seminary.

My husband I come from very similar backgrounds, both of us grew up Modern Orthodox and then became more yeshivish, and we clicked pretty much instantly.

Around our 4th date, my husband-to-be mentioned something that I found really embarrassing. He told me that he had not always been so frum and that during university he’d had a one-time sexual encounter at his fraternity and had contracted a genital wart. It seemed so inappropriate that he was telling me that, and I just ignored it and said something like, “Oh…that’s too bad.” He said that he had been to the doctor, and everything was fine now and that it posed no danger to the woman he would marry. I didn’t know what he was referring to. But I guessed that he had looked into things, and it was nothing to worry about.

B”H, we got married a few months after that. A few years later we were back in America, living in the out-of-town community where my husband works as a shul rabbi. By then we had five children, and it had been years since I’d thought of my husband’s embarrassing confession during that fourth date. But then my husband brought it up again. He had read something about new research on genital warts, and suggested that his genital wart from so many years before was something I might want to mention to my gynecologist.

Again, I didn’t know why he seemed so concerned. But the next time I saw my gynecologist, I mentioned it to her, and she said I should be tested for HPV.

I didn’t even know what HPV was. Only later I found out that HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. So, to make a long story short, I did the test, and I tested positive for HPV. I, the girl who frummed out and had never even touched my husband before our wedding night, have a sexually transmitted disease. It’s so surreal and weird.

And the scariest thing is that this virus puts me at risk for several kinds of cancer and precancer. My doctor begged me: “Please, do not be angry at your husband!” B”H, I’ve been blessed with a wonderful husband and I love and respect him so much. But it’s not easy to know that I’m at risk because of him.

I just wanted to share my story since I know that most religious mothers think their daughters don’t need to be vaccinated for HPV. But I will definitely be vaccinating my three daughters for HPV, because even a woman who is a virgin on her wedding night is at risk. I’m living proof.


  1. Once again, kol hakavod, Chana. This was a very important post.

  2. Thank you for posting this – I am not frum, but a pretty traditional Jewish mom who didn’t like the idea of the vaccination for my daughter. Now, I have changed my mind.

    • I’m a pediatrician, and I want to commend you. You may have saved her life. And thus, saved an entire world. Kol hakavod, JewishMom!!

  3. While my heart goes out to this woman, I feel that getting this vaccine is very ill advised. I am a mother of daughters and have read extensively about it. Just for the records having HPV does not equal cervical cancer. A very small percentage of HPV women contract this disease.link:http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2008/10/25/prominent-scientist-warns-of-hpv-vaccine-dangers.aspx
    That being said, the risks of this vaccine are many. Millions of dollars have already been paid out by Merck to victims of Gardisil.
    With all vaccines, there is no ostrich approach. Therefore every parent must educate themselves to make an informed decision. Here a link about Gardisil: http://truthaboutgardasil.org/ Also http://www.nvic.org/ and Mercola.com (with a search for Gardisil)
    May we all be blessed with good health!!

    • here’s a quotation from wikipedia regarding gardasil’s safety:

      HPV vaccines are approved for use in over 100 countries, with more than 100 million doses distributed worldwide. Extensive clinical trial and post-marketing safety surveillance data indicate that both Gardasil and Cervarix are well tolerated and safe.[48]
      A cohort study of approximately 1 million girls found no evidence supporting associations between exposure to quadrivalent human papillomavirus vaccine and autoimmune, neurological, and venous thromboembolic adverse events.[49]
      Gardasil is a 3-dose (injection) vaccine. As of 8 September 2013 there have been more than 111 million doses distributed in the United States, though it is unknown how many have been administered.[50] There have been 390,800 Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) reports following the vaccination.[51] Ninety-one percent were reports of events considered to be non-serious (e.g., fainting, pain and swelling at the injection site (arm), headache, nausea and fever), and 9 percent were considered to be serious (death, permanent disability, life-threatening illness and hospitalization). There is no proven causal link between the vaccine and serious adverse effects; VAERS reports include any effects whether coincidental or causal. The CDC states: “When evaluating data from VAERS, it is important to note that for any reported event, no cause-and-effect relationship has been established. VAERS receives reports on all potential associations between vaccines and adverse events.”[51]
      As of 1 September 2009, there have been 44 U.S. reports of death in females after receiving the vaccine.[51] None of the 27 confirmed deaths of women and girls who had taken the vaccine were linked to the vaccine.[51] There is no evidence suggesting that Gardasil causes or raises the risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Additionally, there have been rare reports of blood clots forming in the heart, lungs and legs.[51]
      As of 8 September 2013 the CDC continues to recommend Gardasil vaccination for the prevention of four types of HPV.[51] Merck, the manufacturer of Gardasil, has committed to ongoing research assessing the vaccine’s safety.[52]
      According to the Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the FDA, the rate of adverse side effects related to Gardasil immunization in the safety review were consistent with what has been seen in the safety studies carried out before the vaccine was approved and were similar to those seen with other vaccines. However, a higher proportion of syncope (fainting) were seen with Gardasil than are usually seen with other vaccines. The FDA and CDC have reminded health care providers that, to prevent falls and injuries, all vaccine recipients should remain seated or lying down and be closely observed for 15 minutes after vaccination.[2]

      • A few points here. If you want to research the facts about the pros and cons of HPV vaccination, please use reputable peer-reviewed medical journals or publications. Dr.Mercola,who Miriam is quoting,is a strong proponent of alternative medicine, uses his website to sell alternative medicine supplements, and has been warned by the FDA to stop making inappropriate claims about treating illnesses with these supplements. A slight conflict of interest there.
        Secondly, the HPV virus is also the cause of other non-cervical cancers, such as anal, vulvular and oropharyngeal, which are not routinely screened as cervical cancer is(Pap smear). The medical professional is in fact talking about vaccinating boys as well, to prevent cancers transmitted primarily via oral sex. You might not want to face the facts, however you never REALLY know where someone has been or what they have done,or what they WILL do in the future, regardless of what ‘halacha’ says. Not admitting this fact is keeping your head in the sand, (similar in some ways to the right wing religious community continuing to not admit all the pedophilia going on under their noses, because it is also against halacha, and of course those nice religious men could not be doing that.)
        Again, because you never really know these facts, the intelligent thing is to control what you are able to control now, and that is to protect YOUR child against this virus. Never be so naive as to assume what their future spouse has been exposed to, or for that matter, what your own child might be exposed to in the future, both girls AND boys.

        • Esther, i do not know your background, but dismissing Dr Mercola as you did is also irresponsible. Maybe this article from CBS and interview with the woman who led the development of the HPV vaccine (Which Dr mercola’s article is based on) would be acceptable to you. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/gardasil-researcher-speaks-out/ If you look up Dr Harper on wikipedia you will see that she has been speaking out for a few years to several main stream news outlets so for Dr Mercola to quote her seems to me well within the bounds of responsible health reporting.

          Dr Harper believes that the vaccine will have no significant impact on preventing cervical cancer. Furthermore a serious concern should be that the testing for the vaccine was studied by giving it to post puberty 15 year old girls. This vaccine is being given to much younger girls 9-10 year olds -why? how do doctors know that this is safe and why is it being given to pre-pubescent girls?

          Who is worried about girls younger than 15 being so sexually active (some in the population may be but by no means a majority) that they need the vaccine before the age of 15?

          There are many other issues with this and other vaccines that are being voiced by a growing number of doctors and research fellows.

  4. Another frum mom

    I am another frum mom. while I don’t have a problem with my daughters being vaccinated against hpv, I *do* have a problem with them receiving a vaccine for a STD beginning in eigth grade. Yes, I am aware that there needs to be time for the booster doses to be given, but I do not think they need to be vaccinated against a sexually transmitted disease before they even know about sex! Are there any good reasons why the vaccine cannot be given when she is 16? And I do not like the double standard that girls will receive the vaccine, but not boys. It is equally effective in boys and they should be given the vaccine at 12 if girls do.

    • hi “another frum mom”- just found this response to your excellent question on the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
      HPV vaccination is recommended for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12 years.
      Preteens and teens should get all 3 doses of an HPV vaccine long before their first sexual contact, so they have time to develop protection from the vaccine. This is also the age when the vaccine will work the best since preteens have a better immune response from the vaccine than older teens.

    • You’re naive to believe that an 8th grade girl knows nothing about sex.

    • The vaccine is to prevent disease is all the young woman or man needs to know. Just because a child is frum at this age is no guarantee that this will always be the case. We are not giving them permission to be sexual by giving them the vaccine. But we need to be sure it is given when it will be the most effective.

  5. As a frum gynecologist who has not many, but a few frum young girls as patients, all i can say is that mothers have NO IDEA what their daughters are doing. If there’s a will, there’s a way. Mothers can never be 100% sure that their daughters aren’t having sex. Get the vaccine. The age of vaccination isn’t incredibly important, as long as the whole 6 month series is given prior to having sex.

  6. Can we go back to what Chana Jenny wrote in her first comment response, quoting Wikipedia:

    As of 1 September 2009, there have been 44 U.S. reports of death in females after receiving the vaccine.[51] None of the 27 confirmed deaths of women and girls who had taken the vaccine were linked to the vaccine.[51] There is no evidence suggesting that Gardasil causes or raises the risk of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Additionally, there have been rare reports of blood clots forming in the heart, lungs and legs.[51]

    So does that mean 12 deaths were linked to the vaccine, the other 27 were not. 44 girls or women died after receiving the injection. So we have deaths after being given the injection, some causal and some not. We also have the rare but possible blood clot forming in the heart, lungs and legs. I would need some great proof that risking my daughter’s life was worth this russian roulette game.

    It is a tough call, for any vaccine. I think the medical world glosses over the rare but possible case of serious damage caused by a vaccine. I personally would need more information before making a decision.

    • Benjamin E.

      The data from the actual website ( http://www.cdc.gov/vaccinesafety/Vaccines/HPV/hpv_faqs.html#seven ) rather than the Wikipedia summary states:

      “Among the 85 reports of death [between June 2006 and June 2013], many could not be verified, because there was not enough information reported; 43 could be verified through clinical review of medical records, autopsy reports, and death certificates. Detailed review of every report of death following a person’s receipt of the Gardasil® vaccine has shown:

      * There is no pattern of death occurring with respect to time after vaccination
      * There is no consistent vaccine dose number or combination of vaccines given
      * There is no diagnosis at death that would suggest that the Gardasil® vaccine caused the death”

    • Of the 44 reports, 27 were confirmed to be both deaths and having happened after taking the vaccine. 17 (not 12, 44 minus 27 is 17) of the reports were erroneous and either didn’t happen at all, were replicates of other cases, or happened in women who did not get the vaccine.
      Reports of adverse effects or only reports, they require confirmation.

  7. Thank you for publishing this. It is so important for people to be aware of how easy it is to catch an STD, and the importance of trying to prevent it. Unfortunately, the focus of the discussion has veered into general vaccinations. People tend to adopt very strident views on this issue. However, it is worth noting that most credible medical professionals support vaccination. Doing your own research on the Internet, does not have the same validity. Those same medical professionals are upset by the increase in whooping cough and other diseases that are preventable through vaccination.

  8. Thanks for publishing this Chana Jenny. If my daughter is offered it, I will take it. I say, thank you Hashem for dropping this opportunity in my lap to protect my daughter. I’m not seeking it out, but I always do what’s required of me by the general medical community; I simply see it as a gift from Hashem, as I do all vaccines, since He gave us the cure before the disease….. Call me simplistic, that’s how I choose to see it.

    • I also feel like even if my daughter has a miniscule chance of getting this somehow, why not get this simple vaccination to save her from the horrific suffering my friend went through (and now her orphaned children and husband are enduring since her death).

      • I have seen way too many first hand adverse reactions to vaccines of many kinds to have any faith in anything the cdc or any “official” responders say. And if you tell me “I’m a doctor, I’m a nurse, so I know” I’m not listening to you; I don’t want to hear from anyone who isn’t a mother and passing “anecdotal” information from her own experience. Too often doctors discount mothers’ intuition and worries about reactions to medication claiming the “so-called” reaction is coincidental. There is nothing I would love more than to have fool proof preventative healthcare. I wish it was so simple. I believe in education. I have a relationship with my children where I have told them all the nasty nitty-gritty about sex and know that if decide to stupid, and give in to a stupid boys’ lower brain, they will get the shot and birth control and whatever other protection they need. (I only hope that I haven’t turned them off marriage with TMI.
        I hate these disucssions. Each person is so passionate about their prospective, and so sure they have the only right point of view (myself included), it’s only too painful to get caught up in one.
        the only asnwer, HaShem – are YOU LISTENING? – is to have the emesdike light and the emesidike refuah NOW.

  9. @daniel: although not a majority by any means, thes numbers are not to be ignored. USA Today pointed out that the number of teens who are sexually active climbs steadily for each year after the age of 13. At 13, roughly 5.4 percent of all teens are sexually active, while at 14 that number rises to 11 percent.20: A fifth of all 15-year-olds are sexually active. By the age of 16, that number rises to 33 percent, or a third of all teens.50: More than half of all teens are sexually active between the ages of 17 and 19

  10. I’m so glad that you’re getting your daughter vaccinated. I have three girls and will get them vaccinated for HPV. I will do it when it is advised, along with whatever other vaccinations are recommended at that age. I do not plan to tell my daughters what each vaccine is for, unless they ask. I never have, so no reason to start now.

    I don’t expect my daughters to be sexually active until marriage. Most likely their husbands will not have been sexually active. But you make a wonderful point — we don’t know (even if we feel secure in our daughters, we have no idea whom they will marry, at this point!) The scare tactics being used against this vaccine are troubling, especially because they reveal how few people understand the difference between correlation and causation. The MMR vaccine doesn’t cause autism, either — the only study suggesting a link was found to be completely fraudulent. Yet many frum mothers still refrain from getting their children fully vaccinated. We have an obligation to our children to protect them from any disease we can. End of story for me.

  11. Wow! Everyone knows there are evils that lurk in the internet, but this is one of the good things, the ability to share ‘hush hush’ ideas that empower and give food for thought.

  12. There are huge lobbies behind all vaccines and huge financial interests; i am skeptical about all the médical professionals who only repeat what tjey have learnt un school; for example the oncologists know nothing about nutrition while it is so fundamental!
    Dont be submitted to fda and pharmaceutical industries it is all money who runs and not our interests!

  13. Thank you so much for this important post. Another reason to consider the HPV vaccine for both girls and boys is, unfortunately, and G-d forbid, that some children become sexually active against their will because of sexual abuse. While no parent wants to consider such circumstances, we can at least help to protect our precious ones from this aspect of risk.

  14. I am so proud of you and this post!! I am BT and a nurse practitioner in a largely frum community….your story is what I am trying to teach and explain…I wish so much that all forum moms w o old listen to you.
    Be well, Laura

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