Good news! Research published this month in the journal Pediatrics concludes that girls who are vaccinated against the human papillomavirus (HPV) do not subsequently become promiscuous.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the U.S. and can cause cancers of the cervix, anus, and throat, although most strains of HPV do not produce any symptoms and disappear on their own.
The researchers followed a sample of 1,400 girls from 2006 to 2010. In 2006, the girls were 11 or 12 and roughly a third received the HPV vaccine. Using objective markers of sexual activity, including pregnancy, counseling on contraceptives, and testing or diagnoses of sexually transmitted infections, the researchers found no difference in sexual activity for the third who were vaccinated compared to the two-thirds who were not.
In 2006, public health officials began recommending that girls be routinely vaccinated against HPV starting at age 11. More recently, officials have begun to include boys in their recommendations, citing new evidence that somes strains of the virus can also cause cancer in boys.
Nearly a third of children 14 to 19 years old are infected with HPV. Yet parents have been slow to vaccinate their daughters (and sons) and states have been reluctant to issue mandatory vaccination orders. To date, no state government has successfully mandated an HPV vaccine, although Virginia and Washington, D.C. have enacted loose vaccination requirements for sixth grade girls.