HPV Vaccine Study Allays Concerns

Young girls who receive the vaccine Gardasil for human papillomavirus are no more prone to become pregnant or infected by sexually transmitted diseases than girls who do not receive the vaccine, according to a study in the journal Pediatrics.

“We present the first evaluation of sexual activity-related outcomes after adolescent HPV vaccination in the recommended age range of 11–12 years to use clinical outcomes and show that receipt of HPV vaccine is not associated with an increased rate of sexual activity-related outcomes,” says the study “Sexual Activity-Related Outcomes After Human Papillomavirus Vaccination of 11 to 12-Year-Olds” (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/10/peds.2012-1516.full.pdf+html?sid=3a05a0e8-6726-4742-b5b6-fb0c6dcfa48d).

Researchers followed 1,398 girls ages 11–12 who were Kaiser Permanente members in Georgia in 2006 and 2007. The group was divided, with 493 getting at least one dose of Gardasil during the time they were tracked and 905 not getting the vaccine.

“This study provides a clinical validation and extends our understanding of numerous surveys reporting that most young women did not plan to modify their sexual behaviors after HPV vaccination.... If HPV vaccination [were] ‘a license for sex,’ we would [have seen] more adverse outcomes shortly after vaccination, when the girls were more aware of their vaccination status.”

As Managed Care reported in September, only about 35 percent of girls get the full three doses of the vaccine for HPV, pointing to a troubling public health dilemma (/archives/2012/9/hpv-vaccine-goes-underused).

“The HPV vaccine is an achievement we should celebrate,” Gregory D. Zimet, PhD, an HPV researcher and professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine, told us. “There should be parades. To have a vaccine that can actually prevent substantial numbers of cancers is an amazing achievement.”

Robert Davis, MD, MPH, a senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research – Southeast and a co-author of the Pediatrics study, says that it “adds to the growing evidence that the HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent these rare but sometimes deadly cancers.”

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