When the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine was introduced a few years ago, some parents worried that giving it to their preteen daughters might promote promiscuity. Now a new study appears to ease those concerns.
Researchers studied nearly 1,400 girls aged 11 and 12 (the ideal age to be vaccinated since it's before the onset of sexual activity) and found that girls who received the vaccine were not more likely to get pregnant, or develop sexually transmitted diseases.
The virus is transmitted through direct skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and it's most common in people in their late teens and early 20s.
Most types of the virus cause no symptoms and go away without problems, but some types can cause cervical cancer in women and occasionally cancers of the anus, penis, vagina, vulva and the back of the throat.
About 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year and 4,000 women die from it.
This latest study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, shows that getting the vaccine does not encourage sexual activity, researchers say.
About half of girls aged 13 to 17 received at least one dose of the vaccine last year, according to the CDC – a low figure compared to other vaccines given to children of that age.
This study should reassure parents that in this case, the benefits of the vaccine might outweigh the risks.