The HPV vaccine, when administered to children as young as 11, does not encourage teenagers to have sex at rates any higher than normal, according to a new study. There had been concerns among parents that the preventative measure would increase the sex drive- especially among young girls.
The HPV vaccine, however, did not produce teenagers who were more likely to have sexual intercourse, a Kaiser Permanente and Emory University study showed. The research was documented in the Pediatrics journal, and aims to tackle the flawed thinking- in 2010, less than half of girls received the vaccine, called Gardasil. Doctors recommend they receive before possibly becoming sexually active.
"Some parents are concerned that saying 'yes' to the HPV vaccine is also encouraging teenagers to say 'yes,' to sex," Dr. Carol Ford, chief of the Craig Dalsimer division of adolescent medicine at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, told ABC News.
The hesitant nature of parents to guard against STDs may be well-intentioned, but potentially dangerous. Human papillomavirus, if left untreated, can lead to cervical cancer in women, genital warts, precancerous lesions, and other cancers for both sexes.
"Why would you vaccine a pre-teenager against a virus that can be contracted sexually?" Robert Bednarczyk, lead author of the study, posed to The Los Angeles Times. The answer: vaccines work best as preventative treatment, not as cures. HPV in particular is many times contracted soon after sexual activity, so it's important to be vaccinated early.
The study followed nearly 1,400 girls aged 11 and 12 from 2006 and 2007: 493 had a dose of HPV vaccine Gardisil, while the 905 others did not. Afterwards, they followed up with the girls in teenage years to see whether they took pregnancy tests, had STDs, or looked for contraceptives.
Both groups turned out about equally, with the HPV vaccine making on difference.
"The takeaway here is that this vaccine is safe and effective, and it's not associated with any risk of … outcomes related to sexual activity," Benarczyk explained. "This is reassuring to physicians and the parents that the concern doesn't need to be there."