On the implications of desexualizing vaccines against sexually transmitted diseases: Health policy challenges in a multicultural society

Baruch Velan, Yaacov Yadgar

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Two vaccines against sexually transmitted infections are included in many national vaccination programs: Hepatitis B Virus (HBV) vaccine and Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine. The trajectories of the implementation of these two programs were marked by differences in the way the sexual context of risk was communicated to the public. These trajectories fluctuated between full accounts of the sexual nature of the infection and attempts to desexualize the vaccines. Vaccine desexualization can be achieved by withholding information of sexual context, blurring information, and distancing the age of vaccination from the age of sexual debut. Desexualization may be advantageous in promoting public health and personal health of people who believe that HPV vaccination leads to increased promiscuity, people who believe that protection against STD is not relevant to their children, and people who are not comfortable discussing the sexuality of their children. On the other hand, desexualizing may be disadvantageous for children to parents who tend to express passiveness towards vaccination, parents who attribute importance to sex education, and teenagers with homosexual orientations. The ethical analysis of vaccine desexualization reveals a complex interplay of considerations related to utility, causation of harm, duty of transparency, right to know, and right not to know. This analysis suggests that the moral merits of applying desexualization are questionable. Lastly, a sociopolitical consideration of the matter, suggests that decisions on vaccine desexualization can have implications on the interrelationships between various social groups and subgroups composing a certain population, and may highlight intercultural schisms. All this indicates that shaping the sexual framework of vaccination programs bears implications far beyond the practical considerations of vaccine promotion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number30
JournalIsrael Journal of Health Policy Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).


  • Health-promotion
  • Hepatitis B Virus (HBV)
  • Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)
  • Multicultural-society bioethics
  • Sexually-transmitted-diseases
  • Vaccination


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