HPV vaccine does not encourage unsafe sex in teens, says study

HPV vaccine does not encourage unsafe sex in teens, says study

The HPV vaccine has not been without controversy since it started being administered in 2006. But new research should give some parents peace of mind: getting vaccinated does not encourage unsafe sex.

The HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys (ages 11 to 12 years old) at their annual check-up with their pediatrician, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine protects against sexually transmitted infections (STI), causing some parents to worry that their children may think they are giving them the green light to start having sex. Or worse, might make teens feel less vulnerable to STI’s and more likely to have unsafe sex.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School looked at data for more than 200,000 female teenagers between the ages of 12 to 18 over a six year period. They split the girls into two groups – those vaccinated against HPV and those not – and looked at their rates of STI’s both before and after vaccination. The researchers used STI rates as evidence of the girl’s behavior. If the rates of STIs increased over time, researchers would infer the girls had started engaging in more risky sexual behavior.

In the end, the STI rate among girls who received the vaccine did not increase any more the girls who did. This suggests that receiving the HPV vaccine did not encourage riskier behavior.

This study joins others in a growing body of research addressing these issues – and all of them are coming to the same conclusion.

Some physicians hope the study findings encourage parents to vaccinate.

“It’s understandable that parents have concerns about giving their children a vaccine for STI’s at a young age, but we must get over that discomfort so we can keep our kids safe,” says Dr. Judith Savage, a pediatrician at Advocate South Suburban Hospital in Hazel Crest, Ill. “HPV is the most common STI today and the vaccine is safe and very effective at preventing the types of HPV responsible for causing cervical cancer and genital warts. If we can prevent cancer, we absolutely should.”

Today, more than a quarter of teens are sexually active by the ages of 15 to 17, which highlights the importance of getting the HPV vaccination as a preteen. The vaccine provides the best protection when given between the ages of 9 and 15.

Even though HPV is common, vaccination is not. Fewer than 40 percent of girls and only 14 percent of boys received the full series of vaccinations in 2013.

“Clearly, we have work to do in educating people about the importance of this vaccine. When talking with worried parents, it is important that doctors listen to their fears and address them openly and honestly.” says Dr. Savage.

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  1. The title is misleading. I thought I was going to be reading about how the vaccine doesn’t encourage teen sexual behavior. I was incorrect. The study says the vaccine doesn’t encourage “Risky” teen sexual behavior. Oh, so sexual behavior is fine.
    Am I the lone one asking how did the society come to accepting teenage sexual behavior? We have concluded in our society that sexual behavior for teens is okay, but just not risky sexual behavior. Everything is okay as long as a condom is used. Whether you are old, middle aged, college grad, or a teen, everything is accepted as long as a condom is used.
    “HPV is the most common STI today.” We are now admitting HPV is a sexually transmitted disease. So many arguments I have had over this. Now I know: HPV is/can be a sexually transmitted disease. So why are these kids having sex is my question. I sure hope it’s not because of an empty household where 2 parents work full-time so they can afford a better life for their child. I say that because “a better life” in 2015 means “more stuff.” Who ever thought that we’d come to the conclusion that a “better life” for your child would mean “more stuff?” More stuff means less parental time, which gives rise to children finding their own activities to do in their own teenage minds in a society that shows a variety of nudity on youtube and movies that show.. lots of activities.

    Parents are too worried about their career. The vaccine gives them assurance: “Hey the kid is going to have sex, so at least have them scheduled for their shots so I don’t have to worry while I’m on my business trip to Denver. The skiing is really pretty over here.”

    • The headline of the article clearly reads “does not encourage unsafe sex.”

      But thanks for taking the time and opportunity to share a completely unrelated and mostly nonsensical rant. Much appreciated. It was a long day and you provided me a hearty chuckle.

  2. Wow, “George” you’re really all over the place with your response. I’m going to stick to your issues with the article and ignore your complaints about society, diversity of families, parenting choices and general cantankerousness.

    The title of the article is: HPV vaccine does not encourage unsafe sex in teens, study says.

    The article is about a correlation (or lack thereof) between teens receiving the HPV vaccine and an increase in incidences of unprotected sex/STI contraction in those teens.

    Regardless of your personal beliefs about teens and wether or not they should be engaging in sex acts and what circumstances individually or culturally may have led to those choices the article clearly relays that in this study no significant increase in STI contraction , presumably due to decreased condom use, was recorded amongst the teens who had received the HPV vaccination.

    The title is clear. The article is succinct.

    “George” if you were looking for an article to reaffirm your personal beliefs instead of one that presents medical data, perhaps your personal religious organizations website would be a better option.

  3. Children know they get before school shots. Do they ask what each shot is for? No. If you are afraid HPV vacs will encourage sex, don’t tell them. This is a health issue. Cancer is horrible. Throat and tongue Cancer is worse than horrible and the treatment is horrendous. Your virginal child may marry someone who doesn’t know they have the virus. Do you really want to put your child at risk. People don’t know they have the virus unless it wakes up and causes horrendous illness. Please parents. Have pity on your children and mine. Vaccinate for HPV.

  4. Whee we can celebrate cervical cancer as the reward for having sex without parental permission. What kind of nonsense is being espoused ?

    • I suppose you are correct. A parent and a parent’s guidance is not needed to raise a child today. There is technology, teachers, mayors, businesses, and doctors who can do a better job today. In fact, why even have them- the teachers, mayors, or doctors- educate them on matters of morality. We should let them pick their morals. Any mistakes made along the way, science like this can fix.

  5. I just simply tild my teen aged son that it was a vaccine to prevent penile cancer . I did not tell him it was a sexually transmitted infection. he was glad i cared enough to protect him. It did not replace my responsibility to discuss safer sex practices, as well as my wish for him to abstain until he is socially and emotionally mature enough for that type of relationship.

    • “I just simply told my teen aged son that it was a vaccine to prevent penile cancer . I did not tell him it was a sexually transmitted infection.”

      That’s a great tactic, Val, and not at all untrue. When you’re ready to have The Talk with him, you can discuss the means by which the vaccine prevents cancer (ie by vaccinating him against HPV).

      I intend to get my children vaccinated against HPV on schedule in order to protect them from disease. I have no expectation of them being sexually active at a young age, but there are two things that led me to this decision:

      1. I’d rather not wait only to have it be too late to protect them later. I sincerely hope they don’t engage in sex as a teen, but… teens have sex. Even “good” teens with engaged parents — and I’m not going to put my kids at risk because I want to believe “MY kids would never.”

      2. Unfortunately, sexual relations aren’t always consensual. No one wants to think about that, of course, but it’s a reality.

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health enews Staff
health enews Staff

health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.