HPV Vaccine Not Linked to Unsafe Sex


Adolescent girls who receive the HPV vaccine are no more likely than unvaccinated girls to participate in risky sexual behavior.

The human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV) does not promote risky sexual behavior among adolescent girls, a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine concluded.

Researchers found that the rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in adolescent females do not increase among teens vaccinated with HPV.

Pertinent Points:

- Girls who receive the HPV vaccine are not more likely to have riskier sex.

- The likelihood of contracting an STI
did not increase at
a faster rate among girls who received
the HPV vaccine compared with girls who were not vaccinated.

"Since this is one of the few medications ever developed that can actually prevent cancer, it's good to be able to reassure parents, physicians, and policymakers that the vaccine does not promote unsafe sexual practices among girls and young women," said study author Anupam Jena, MD, PhD, assistant professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, in a news release.

The study compared 21,000 girls who were vaccinated with 186,000 unvaccinated girls of the same age. The girls had the same insurance plan and lived in the same geographic region of the United States. The researchers found that for both groups, STIs increased at the same pace as the girls aged.

Still, the vaccinated girls had slightly higher rates of STIs prior to and following vaccination. The researchers believe this may be because sexually active girls are more likely to be vaccinated.

Despite the slightly higher rates, the data was clear on one point: the rate of increase in STIs was identical for both vaccinated and unvaccinated girls.

"If providing girls with the HPV vaccine caused an increase in risky sexual behavior, we would expect to have seen a steeper increase in STI rates in the quarters following administration of the vaccine. We found no such increase, causing us to conclude that there was no association between using the vaccine and unsafe sexual practices," said study coauthor Seth Seabury, PhD, in a statement. Dr Seabury is associate professor of research, department of emergency medicine, at the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

Specifically, in the year after vaccination, the authors found that rates of STIs increased to 6.8 per 1,000 girls for those who had received the vaccine and to 4.2 per 1,000 among nonvaccinated girls. But the difference in odds between the two groups indicates that the vaccination was not the reason for an increase in STIs, said the study authors. STI rates in the year prior to vaccination were 4.3 per 1,000 girls among those who would be vaccinated, compared with 2.8 per 1,000 among unvaccinated girls.

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