Promiscuity and the HPV Vaccine: Any Link?

Sandra Adamson Fryhofer, MD


April 19, 2013

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Hello. I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer. Welcome to Medicine Matters. The topic: Is the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine associated with increased promiscuity among adolescent girls? There is reassuring news from the journal Pediatrics.[1] Here's why it matters.

The HPV vaccine is the first cervical cancer vaccine. Three doses are recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) for girls starting at age 11 or 12 years.[2] Some parents have been concerned that getting the vaccine at this young age could encourage these adolescents to have sex. This study looked at nearly 1400 eleven- and twelve-year-olds, a third of whom received the vaccine. The study followed them for the next 4 years. Parents have wondered and worried. This study found that preteens who received the HPV vaccine were no more likely to get pregnant or start birth control than girls that age who were not vaccinated.[1] They were also no more likely to get sexually transmitted diseases. The HPV vaccine is not a license for having sex, but it does protect against cervical and anal cancer. It also includes coverage for viral strains linked to oral cancer.

Three doses of the HPV vaccine are recommended for all females aged 9 to 26 years. Data from the 2011 National Immunization Survey[3] show that only 53% of teenage girls have had at least 1 dose. Only 35% have received all 3 doses. This is why we need to work hard to improve vaccination rates.

Data analyses from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results database and the National Program of Cancer Registries conclude that more than 33,000 cancers occur each year in the United States at anatomic sites associated with HPV. Of these, approximately 26,000 can be attributed to HPV and might be preventable through the use of HPV vaccine.[4]

We need to improve HPV vaccination rates. For Medicine Matters, I'm Dr. Sandra Fryhofer.