The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects against several major types of HPV, a causative factor for cervical cancer and genital warts. Although the vaccine is safe and effective, vaccination rates among American girls and women remain low. Part of the reason for low coverage is due to parents fears that vaccinating their teenagers against a sexually transmitted infection (STI) would encourage earlier sexual activity and lead to false sense of security about other STIs. However, studies show that the vaccine does not lead to increased or earlier sexual activity.
Researchers led by Dr. Anupam B. Jena at Harvard Medical School set out to study whether HPV vaccination of girls and women is associated with increased rates of STIs. They examined insurance records from 2005 to 2010 for over 21,000 girls aged 12 to 18, before and after receiving the HPV vaccination. The participants were matched by age and zip code with over 186,000 unvaccinated girls.
In the year before receiving the HPV vaccination, vaccinated girls had higher rates of STIs compared to non-vaccinated girls. Dr. Jena explained that this is likely because girls who are sexually active and getting infections would be more inclined to receive the HPV vaccination (It is recommended that girls receive the HPV vaccine before becoming sexually active). In the following years, sexually transmitted infections (excluding HPV) increased at the same rate in vaccinated and unvaccinated girls. The researchers conclude, Human papillomavirus vaccination was not associated with increases in STIs in a large cohort of females, suggesting that vaccination is unlikely to promote unsafe sexual activity. The research was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
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, Dr. Jena stated.