Human Papillomavirus Vaccine (Getty)
By Michelle Healy, USA TODAY
Add another study to a growing body of research showing that despite some parents' concerns, HPV vaccination does not lead teen girls to start having sex or to engage in unsafe sex.
The latest, in the March issue of Pediatrics, published online today, examines adolescent girls' and young women's risk perceptions or beliefs about the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, whether accurate or inaccurate, and how they are linked to sexual behaviors up to six months after vaccination.
Specifically, researchers examined two risk perceptions: immediately after vaccination did participants feel they still needed to practice safer sex behaviors, and did they feel protected against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) besides HPV.
"The latter is an inappropriate perception that may lead to riskier behaviors," says senior study author Jessica Kahn, an adolescent medicine physician and researcher at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center.
Among the 339 participants, both sexually experienced and inexperienced, ages 13-24, "the vast majority thought it was still important to practice safer sex after vaccination, and most did not believe that HPV vaccination protected against other STIs," says Kahn.
"This study, in combination with others, offers pretty convincing evidence that vaccination does not lead to riskier behaviors, and that should be reassuring to parents" who have cited that concern in rejecting what is a "very safe and effective" vaccination, she adds.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity with another person. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are more than 40 types of HPV that can infect the genital areas of males and females. These HPV types can also infect the mouth and throat. HPV vaccines can protect against some of the most common types of HPV, including those that cause 70% of cervical cancers.
The U.S. Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends HPV vaccination for girls and women between the ages of 11 and 26, for boys and men between 11 and 21, and for men 22 to 26 who are at high risk for HPV.