Emory Epidemiologist: No HPV vaccine-promiscuity connection

Oct. 18, 2012

A study published in the journal Pediatrics, and covered by numerous news outlets, concludes that preteen girls who receive the vaccine against human papilloma virus (HPV) are no more likely than unvaccinated girls to get pregnant, develop sexually transmitted infections, or seek counseling about birth control. According to the study, whose lead author Robert Bednarczyk, an epidemiologist at Emory and a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research-Southeast, HPV vaccination in the recommended ages was not associated with increased sexual activity–related outcome rates.

Previous research have already dismissed the notion that girls who receive the vaccine are prone to such behavior, but this study relies on clinical markers of sexual activity rather than self-reporting, according to Bednarczyk.

Bednarczyk told USA Today that the study offers “the first clinical validation of what we’ve seen in self-reported surveys. We’re hoping [the findings] will provide some reassurance to parents and to physicians that this concern that has been raised in the past isn’t an actual barrier. Receiving this vaccine won't lead to increased sexual activity.”

In 2006, public health officials began recommending that young women be routinely vaccinated against HPV. High-risk HPV is the cause of virtually all cases of cervical cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Many parents, however, hesitated allowing their daughters to receive the vaccine, fearing that it might lead to promiscuous behavior.

Bednarczyk added that the study “really demonstrates that getting the HPV vaccination is not somehow a signal to start having unprotected sex.”

To read the article in USA Today, click here

To read the New York Times coverage of the study, click here.

To read the study abstract, click here.

To read the full text of the study in Pediatrics, click here.

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