A new study came out which showed that young girls who get the HPV vaccine don’t have riskier sex, a claim that has been erroneously thrown out there by various groups throughout the years. The HPV vaccine helps prevent genital warts and cervical cancer, which are known to be caused by the human papillomavirus.
The vaccine, which has been recommended for young preteen girls since 2006, is marketed as Cervarix or Gardasil. The vaccine comes in a series of three shots that are taken a certain length of time apart, and can be given to people until they are about 27-years-old. Nearly half of all young women in the United States have still not received the HPV vaccine, but only certain strains of the virus are known to cause more serious health issues like cervical cancer.
The study itself followed 21,000 girls who got the HPV vaccine, but also followed 186,000 girls who did not get the vaccine. The girls were all the same age and lived in the same part of the United States, and researchers were looking at what type of sexual encounters they had. The study lasted one year, with researchers finding out that actually both groups of girls ended up with higher rates of sexually-transmitted diseases. The actual rate of increase though between the two groups in terms of sexually-transmitted infections was almost the same, which is a little alarming since that means a high percentage of the girls did not use condoms for protection.
A research paper from 2012 also concluded almost the same results, which was published in the journal Pediatrics. The study from 2012 concluded that if girls received the HPV vaccine at 11-years-old, they did not have a higher rate of sexual activity than their peers who were not given the vaccine. While the two studies were similar, the study just released was the first one that showed that getting the vaccine does not alter how a teen proceeds with the act of sex itself. Meaning, if a girl is going to have sex, having the vaccine does not change whether or not she will choose to use a condom. The belief from some groups and people was that the vaccine would give girls the green light to have unprotected sex, which this recent study just debunked. Whether or not the girl takes the Gardasil vaccine, it will not impact the sexual behavior or pattern she has already developed or will develop.
In terms of how this study will help moving forward, it could give parents the reassurance they need so that they will allow their girl to be given the vaccine, even if they are a preteen. The one thing this study is showing that is fairly scary though is that girls are having a lot of unprotected sex, and it has nothing to do with the HPV vaccine. Knowing that both groups in this study experienced quite a few sexually-transmitted diseases, it means that fewer girls are using condoms to protect themselves, and this could also result in more unwanted teen pregnancies. The theory behind the HPV vaccine being like a green light to not use a condom is similar to the theory that putting a girl on birth control gives her the green light to have sex, which is not true either.
When you look at the backgrounds of young girls, their upbringing will determine how they conduct themselves in sexual relationships, not a vaccine that can reduce the risk of warts or cervical cancer. If a girl was going to have unprotected sex or have multiple partners, even as a teenager, that often times comes from a history of sexual abuse or chaotic childhood. Doctors and researchers hope that this study if nothing else will show parents giving the vaccine is the right move, because it can help reduce the risk of this particular sexually-transmitted disease that has already impacted millions of women across the United States. Doctors also say that the reason why it’s not given out past age 27 is that the belief in the medical community is that by 27, you likely already have HPV and don’t know it. It’s estimated that 80 percent of adults have HPV, so getting your young girl the vaccine can help her not be a statistic at some point down the road, since it’s so prevalent now.