Girls who get the HPV vaccine do not have more sex than their counterparts, says a new study, which debunks one of the common arguments against young women getting the potentially life-saving vaccine.
The study, which was published in the journal Pediatrics, surveyed 1,400 girls who were vaccinated at around age 11 and found that those who were vaccinated did not have a higher rate of sexual activity than their non-vaccinated peers.
“We’re hopeful that once physicians see this, it will give them evidence that they can give to parents,” study author Robert A. Bednarczyk told the New York Times. “Hopefully when parents see this, it’ll be reassuring to them and we can start to overcome this barrier.”
The HPV vaccine protects against the common sexually transmitted virus that can cause genital warts as well as cervical, oral and anal cancers.
In Canada, all girls have received the vaccine since 2010, with girls getting the shot somewhere between Grade 4 and Grade 8, depending on the province. The Canadian Cancer Society also recommends that boys get the vaccine.
But the vaccine has come up against controversy as some parents and religious leaders argue that it will encourage girls to have sex before marriage. In Calgary, Bishop Frederick Henry has come under fire for delivering a religious edict against the vaccine. He, along with other Alberta bishops, sent a letter home with Catholic-system schoolchildren saying that parents should not support a school-based HPV vaccination program and and should protect their children from “counterproductive influences and potential abuse,” reports The National Post.
There has been similar backlash in the U.S., where a study from the Yale University School of Medicine, published in 2008, showed that HPV vaccine rates in the U.S. were lower than desired due, in part, to parents’ concern about the effect the vaccine would have on “sexual activity among adolescent vaccine recipients.”