Getting a shot of the vaccine against the human papillomavirus and promiscuous sexual activity are not at all linked together, researchers found, debunking the myth that receiving the vaccine will cause a spike in riskier sexual behavior.
In a study published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers showed that receiving an HPV vaccine doesn't promote risky sexual behavior. In fact, working with 21,000 vaccinated and 186,000 unvaccinated girls revealed that sexual behavior was independent of the HPV vaccine as proven by the same level of increase in cases of sexually transmitted infections rising regardless if an HPV shot was administered or not.
When Gardasil, the first HPV vaccine, was made available in the market, parents, doctors and politicians were against its use out of the belief that vaccinating young girls would increase the chances of risky sexual behavior. The vaccine was thought to promote promiscuity either by introducing the idea of sex at a young age or by encouraging the wrong idea that the vaccine offers protection against more than just HPV.
"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," explained Anupam Jena, a healthcare policy assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School and lead author for the study.
Australia has a national policy mandating the administration of HPV vaccines, resulting in over 80 percent of girls between 14 and 16 years old inoculated with at least one of the three doses recommended for the vaccine. In the United States, only 57.3 percent of girls between the ages of 13 and 17 have received at least one shot of the HPV vaccine.
Gardasil and Cervarix, two HPV vaccines available in the U.S., both protect against cervical cancer. Gardasil also prevents vaginal and vulvar cancers in girls and anal cancer and genital warts in boys and girls.
HPV vaccines are administered at preteen ages of 11 or 12 years old because they are best given before an individual becomes sexually active. The vaccines don't protect against 100 percent of HPVs out there but they can build up the body's immunity best before one encounters an HPV.
The study received funding support from the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute on Aging. Other authors include Seth Seabury and Dana Goldman.