The vaccine against the HPV virus responsible for most cases of cervical cancer has been somewhat controversial ever since it first came out in 2006. The vaccine, called Gardasil, needs to be given before the onset of sexual activity to be completely effective because the HPV virus is sexually transmitted.  Generally the recommendation has been that it be given to girls at about age 11 or 12.

And that’s what has fueled the controversy; some parents have objected to the virus being given to girls that young because they believe it may encourage sexual activity at an age when it really isn’t appropriate.  As a result, many girls have not been vaccinated against the virus when they should be.  Are the parental concerns justified?

Shortly after the vaccine became available, several studies reported that administration of the vaccine did not seem to encourage sexual activity.  However, the early studies were based solely on sexual activity surveys, admittedly not the best way to collect accurate data.  Now a new study published in the journal Pediatrics confirms the earlier studies with data that are independent of self-reports.  The authors of the study examined the medical records of nearly 1,400 girls aged 11 through 12 for up to three years, looking for indirect evidence of sexual activity such as pregnancy, sexually transmitted infection, or contraceptive counseling.  The authors found no evidence of increases in any of these measures in girls given the vaccine at age 11 or 12, versus girls of the same age not given the vaccine.  So at least by these measures, there is no evidence that girls given Gardasil are more likely to engage in sexual activity at an early age.

Hopefully this will relieve some parents and encourage them to have their girls vaccinated.  Currently only about half of all 13- to 17-year-old girls have been vaccinated against HPV; far less than have been vaccinated against non-sexually transmitted diseases such as tetanus and diphtheria, and whooping cough.
reproductive system, sexually transmitted disease, 

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