How one Hudson Valley mom overcame HPV vaccine hesitations

One parent's perspective on the controversial vaccine

Tannya Tonge, Wappingers Falls resident and mother of two daughters, acknowledges that girls are having sex earlier and cervical cancer is a risk. “I was hesitant about vaccinating my daughters,” says Tonge. However, she says relatives who are health professionals “witness daily accounts of pregnancy and abnormal pap smears among young girls entering their office. They encouraged me to vaccinate my daughters.”


Tonge discussed the vaccination with her daughter, Natia. “I explained to my daughter that I would prefer she have sex when married. Although she promised to wait, we discussed peer pressure, which often causes things to happen,” says Tonge. Natia’s main concern: will the vaccination hurt.


The three-dose shot does have varying side effects: pain, swelling, redness, itching, fever, upset stomach and dizziness. Despite injuries reported, Dr. Kipoliongo, of Crystal Run Healthcare in Middletown, says site pain at injection is what she has encountered. “If girls received Hepatitis B vaccination, HPV has the same principals,” says Dr. Kipoliongo. “In addition, HPV contains sulfate; therefore if patients have an allergic reaction to eggs, or sulfate they should be cautious of the vaccine and get screened. It is important that parents and daughters have a comfort level about the vaccination.”


Although Tonge’s youngest daughter will not get the vaccination until her menses starts, Dr. Kipoliongo notes that there is no correlation between the two. Gweneth Lloyd-Stevens, Assistant Director at the Psychological Counseling Center at SUNY New Paltz, had no intentions of vaccinating her daughters. However, last year her eldest daughter, Olivia, attended a summer program at Xavier College, where the vaccine is mandatory.


“I called Dr. Houghton [Director of SUNY New Paltz Health Center] who assured me the vaccine was safe, and increased the immune system to STDs. I told my daughters the vaccine doesn’t make them immune to pregnancy.”


More public education may be needed


Although Lloyd-Stevens’ 17-year-old daughter has been vaccinated, Stevens doesn’t believe there is enough information about the virus to educate parents and teens. She notes that not even the high schools are talking about HVP, never mind middle schools. Stevens will not have her 12-year-old daughter vaccinated until she is ready for college. “Since my family is not a high risk for cervical cancer, I am not concerned,” says Stevens.


Dr. Kipoliongo says parents should base their decision on the facts. “Parents believe they’re opening the entranceway to their child’s sexuality. However, parents allow their teen to get a driver’s license, but don’t tell them to get in an accident or don’t get insurance until after the accident.”


Angela Batchelor is a freelance writer in Fishkill. Her essays were published in Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages (All Things That Matter Press, 2010).


*HPV facts


HPV (the virus): Approximately 20 million Americans are currently infected with HPV. Another 6 million people become newly infected each year. HPV is so common that at least 50 percent of sexually active men and women get it at some point in their lives.

Genital warts: About 1 percent of sexually active adults in the U.S. have genital warts at any one time.


Cervical cancer: Each year, about 12,000 women get cervical cancer in the U.S.

The Gardasil vaccine is one of the most expensive vaccines, costing on average $120 per shot, bringing the full cost to $360.

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