Well (The New York Times Blog) (10.15.12)
Research published in the journal Pediatrics finds that after looking at a sample of nearly 1,400 girls, researchers found no evidence that those who were vaccinated for HPV beginning at approximately age 11 went on to engage in greater sexual activity than those who had not been vaccinated. Robert A. Bednarczyk, lead author of the report and clinical investigator for Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast in Atlanta, hopes that as physicians read this report and pass along the evidence to parents, the evidence will begin to override parental fears.
Federal health officials began recommending that girls be vaccinated against HPV as early as age 11 in 2006, and last year made a similar recommendation for preadolescent boys. Ideally, the desire is to vaccinate boys and girls before they become sexually active to maximize the vaccine’s protective effects. According to research, nearly a third of children 14 to 19 years of age are infected with HPV, but vaccination rates around the country remain low, partly because of concerns that the vaccine could make adolescents less wary of casual sex. In one study of parental attitudes toward the vaccine, Yale researchers found that the concern about promiscuity was the biggest factor in parental decisions not to vaccinate.
Bednarczyk and his colleagues looked at data collected by a large managed care organization, selecting a group of 1,398 girls who were 11 or 12 in 2006—and approximately a third of whom had received the HPV vaccine—and followed them through 2010. The researchers looked for markers of sexual activity, including pregnancies, counseling on contraceptives, and testing or diagnoses for sexually transmitted diseases. In the time period that the group was followed, the researchers did not find any differences in the two groups.