I have two teenage daughters. This summer, they will get the Human Papillomavirus vaccine. They are good girls, and I expect they will stay that way. Still, I don't know what will happen in the future, including the whole sexual history of their future (and now entirely hypothetical) husbands. The idea that there is a vaccine to prevent cancer and other lesser horribles seems like a wholly good thing to me. I am as grateful for the existence of the HPV vaccine as I am for the polio vaccine. If they ever invent a male version of the HPV vaccine, my son will get it, too.
So why is this an issue? Some people want to make the vaccine mandatory. Others opposed giving it at all. That is exactly the situation that begs for a centrist solution.
The argument for making it mandatory is the same as the argument for other mandatory vaccinations. This is a contagious disease that we can prevent, so let's prevent it. The vaccination cost is much smaller than the treatment cost. The whole society would be better off if we could wipe out this virus by giving it no hosts to live in.
I do think it would a good thing if all people who could benefit from the vaccine get vaccinated. I will leave it to the doctors to specify that population. Right now the CDC is saying girls and women from 11 to 26 should be vaccinated. I am not sure why they set that upper bound, but I will assume there is a good medical reason.
The argument against using the vaccine at all is that making sex safer encourages extramarital sex. This negative argument is advanced by pro-family Christians, but it is based on fear – if kids fear sex, they won't have any. I am a pro-family Christian, but I am against fear mongering. As I have argued before, fighting the culture of fear is the gruntled centrist issue. I try to dissuade people from extra-marital sex because it isn't good for their marriages and for the culture of marriage – not because it might kill them. We should try to prevent disease even if the people who get it in some way deserve it. Moreover, the sex diseases can easily spread to people who really don't deserve it.
Still, HPV, though very widespread, is not quite as contagious as, say, the polio virus. If some people opted out it would be a loss, but it wouldn't defeat the purpose of mass vaccination. They might opt out on moral grounds, or on sheer civil liberty grounds, both of which, I think, a free society should accommodate whenever possible.
So where does this leave us? I favor state-mandated vaccination of all girls, with the state paying the bill for poor people. If some people want to opt out, they should be permitted to. The rest of us can try to persuade them not to – as I am trying to do now – but that is a freedom that a free country can allow. Besides, a few years later, those "opted out" girls can make their own decision to get vaccinated if they want to.