Vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) does not lead to increased sexual activity, according to the results of a study published in the journal Vaccine.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. There are more than 100 different strains of HPV. Some types of HPV cause warts on the hands or feet; others cause genital warts; and some have been linked with cancer, most notably cervical cancer. In fact, HPV is believed to be the leading cause of cervical cancer. Other HPV-related cancers include vulvar cancer, anal cancer, penile cancer, and certain types of head and neck cancer.
There are currently two FDA-approved vaccines that protect against the types of HPV associated with cervical cancer. These are: Gardasil® (quadrivalent human papillomavirus [types 6, 11, 16, 18] recombinant vaccine), which prevents infection with four types of HPV—types 6, 11, 16, and 18; and Cervarix® (human papillomavirus bivalent [types 16 and 18] recombinant vaccine), which targets HPV types 16 and 18. HPV types 16 and 18 cause roughly 70% of all cases of cervical cancer, and HPV types 6 and 11 account for roughly 90% of genital warts. The HPV vaccine is approved for females age 9 to 26. The CDC recommends that girls get the shots around age 11 or 12, prior to the beginning of sexual activity.
Some have speculated that the vaccine might increase sexual activity in adolescent girls because of the perceived protection against sexually transmitted diseases. Researchers conducted a study to determine whether the vaccine influences sexual behavior in girls. The study consisted of two components: a cross-sectional study of 1,053 girls in the UK (mean age of 17.1 years), 433 of whom had been offered the vaccine and a longitudinal study of 407 girls who had been offered HPV vaccination and had either received at least one dose (148 girls) or had not received any doses (259 girls).
The results indicated that girls who had been offered the HPV vaccine were no more likely to be sexually active than those who had not been offered it. What’s more—those who had been vaccinated were no more likely to have changed their patterns of condom use or increased their number of sexual partners than those who had not been vaccinated.
The researchers concluded that the vaccine does not have an effect on the sexual behavior of girls.
Forster AS, Marlow LAV, Stephenson J, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination and sexual behaviour: Cross-sectional and longitudinal surveys conducted in England. Vaccine. 2012; 30(33): 4939-4944.
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