New study on HPV vaccinations could ease parents’ concerns about youth sex

Anahad O’Connor / New York Times News Service /

Published Oct 15, 2012 at 05:00AM

Since public health officials began recommending in 2006 that young women be routinely vaccinated against HPV, many parents have hesitated over fears that doing so might give their children license to have sex. But new research published in the journal Pediatrics may help ease those fears.

Looking at a sample of nearly 1,400 girls, the researchers found no evidence that those who were vaccinated beginning around age 11 went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who were not vaccinated.

“We’re hopeful that once physicians see this, it will give them evidence that they can give to parents,” said Robert Bednarczyk, the lead author of the report and a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast in Atlanta. “Hopefully when parents see this, it’ll be reassuring to them and we can start to overcome this barrier.”

HPV, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, can cause cancers of the cervix, anus and parts of the throat. Federal health officials began recommending in 2006 that girls be vaccinated as early as age 11 and last year made a similar recommendation for preadolescent boys. The idea is to maximize the vaccine’s protective effects.

According to research, nearly a third of children 14 to 19 are infected with HPV. But despite the federal recommendations, vaccination rates around the country remain low.

In addition to the HPV vaccine, federal guidelines also call for 11-year-olds to be immunized against meningitis, tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis.