A new study published in JAMA Internal Medicine has revealed that getting the Human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) does not necessarily encourage young girls to be sexually careless. The study addresses a number of myths and fears that people have about HPV vaccination.
HPV vaccine was first produced in 2006, and according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, young kids aged 11-12 as well as older teens and young adults should get a series of three HPV vaccine shots.
The vaccination will safeguard them against contracting the common HPV strain that causes genital warts, cervical cancer, and other related diseases. However, these shots work best and are most effective when the teens getting them are not yet sexually active.
About 38% of girls and 14% of boys aged 13-17 had been fully vaccinated as at 2013 (this was the latest available figures); although boys just started to be vaccinated much later than girls.
According to a medical researcher at Harvard Medical School, Boston, Anupam Jena, almost 20% of parents surveyed in given polls believe that HPV shots would encourage young teens to start having sex or to engage in riskier sex behavior. The parents have reasons to believe that their children would develop “a false sense of security” as a result of their vaccine shots, believing it protects them against pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases.
Jena together with other researchers analyzed the insurance records of 21,610 girls aged 12-18 before and after their vaccinations; and they also studied the records of 186,501 unvaccinated girls, and tallied it with the first group according to ages and zip codes.
The researchers found that vaccinated girls had increased rates of herpes, gonorrhea, and Chlamydia among others in the first year before their shots; and according to Jena, this was likely because sexually active girls with experience of infections might be more motivated to get the shots. But for the years afterward, infections different from HPV increased in both groups, and Jena said this was likely because infections would rise with age as more teens get more sexually active.
“This is probably the most definitive evidence yet that vaccinating your child against HPV is unlikely to lead them to be more sexually active, at least in an unsafe way,” Jena said.
The study also finds that some doctors or physicians hesitate to recommend HPV vaccination to young girls because they fear giving “tacit approval for sexual activity,” wrote Robert Bednarczyk, an epidemiologist at Emory University in Atlanta.
“However, just as we do not wait until we have been in the sun for two hours to apply sunscreen, we should not wait until after an individual is sexually active to attempt to prevent HPV infection,” he wrote.
The Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit organization that investigates sexual health, discovered that about 2% of 12-year-olds, 20% of 15-year-olds, and 61% of 18-year-olds have had sex at least once.
However, Valerie Huber, the president and CEO of the National Abstinence Education Association stated that all sexual infection risks can be avoided be avoiding pre-marital sex. Huber said physicians should encourage teens about abstinence and not “merely encouraging a vaccine that, at best, only reduces the risk of a single STD.”