Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Frederick Figueroa: Get the HPV Vaccine. Your Kids Are Safe

As both a U.S. Senator and a Presidential candidate, you could say that I was in the tightest of spots–one step behind the bullet. I certainly didn’t want to be in the middle of it. I was terrified that someone could have accidentally shot me during my service.

Now there is another alarming idea to deal with: Do not get the HPV vaccine.

That’s the statement I hear from plenty of right-wing journalists and politicians. People like Fox News commentator Rick Santorum and presidential candidate John Kasich, just to name a few.

I was no friend of vaccines, but I saw a glimmer of hope in the fact that the HPV vaccine works to protect girls and young women from cervical cancer. I couldn’t wait to get it for my daughter. When she was eight years old, my wife and I chose to vaccinate her even though we never had our own daughters vaccinated.

As far as I’m concerned, the HPV vaccine is a truly great and smart public health investment–and a complete game changer.

We know that, just like the HPV vaccine, peanut allergies are incredibly prevalent in childhood, and there is just as much fear around the phenomenon as there is around other mental health disorders. It takes confidence to speak out for another person, especially when all you really want to do is shield your own children from potential harm.

But speaking out makes you a hero, and I am thankful for those heroics.

People may see me as a stubborn Democrat who stands up for the little guy, but let me tell you, I am just a guy who believes it is up to every one of us to be the most responsible we can be for what we expose our kids to.

If you get vaccinated, you put your kid in a safer place. You provide a healthy safe environment for them, and that will not only help your family, but your entire community.

As for those who oppose the vaccine, they’re ignoring a clear link to cancer and other dangerous illnesses. Pushing back the benefits of vaccines is the exact opposite of what we should be doing to protect our kids from the diseases that cause so much harm.

I get it, President Pence, I am a pretty sick man. My stomach is aching, my hands are swollen, and you’ve got a sore head from a few too many punchlines about my co-authorship of a book on the topic of pneumonia, while lining your pockets with millions from other immunity-sapping products.

But you wouldn’t want to blow a tumor off, would you? Certainly not your own, would you? And wouldn’t it be a high-stakes gamble to put your health at risk for the sake of failing a childhood vaccination?

The HPV vaccine won’t keep everyone safe from cancer, but it certainly won’t make you sick. In fact, it is safer than the first vaccine that prevented meningitis.

So listen up, President Pence: The best investments are in America.

It’s time for Republicans to realize that the benefits of vaccination go beyond your own children. It’s time for your party to let the science speak for itself.

I will admit that those of us who live on the left may get a little bit touchy on subjects that have historically gotten a bit spicy. A hundred and fifty million vaccinations from pre-exposure prophylaxis don’t tend to bring a lot of colorful tones to the conversation.

For example, I can count the number of instances of the “War on Christmas” on two hands. And I appreciate that no one has been killed by a vaccine.

But there is a lot of mileage in pushing back on some concerns. Because when we get everything right, we often lead the world.

Until then, whether you are a Christian or an atheist, a Latino or a white evangelical, a Republican or a Democrat, you need to make a choice that is best for your children.

If you get vaccinated, your kids will be in a safer place. You are saving their lives. And that alone is reason enough to get vaccinated.

Frederick Figueroa, a writer and a father of four, is a U.S. Representative for the 22nd District of New York State.

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