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HPV Vaccine Doesn't Affect Sexual Behavior, Study Finds

The vaccine against human papillomavirus, which is the sexually transmitted virus that raises the risk of cervical and other cancers, has been a source of controversy among some parents who worry that vaccinating young girls and boys will inadvertently teach them that sex is permissible and safe.  But a new study published this week in the journal Pediatrics has found that having the vaccine does not alter sexual behavior at all.  The New York Times reports:

Looking at a sample of nearly 1,400 girls, the researchers found no evidence that those who were vaccinated beginning around age 11 went on to engage in more sexual activity than girls who were not vaccinated.

"We're hopeful that once physicians see this, it will give them evidence that they can give to parents," said Robert A. Bednarczyk, the lead author of the report and a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast, in Atlanta. "Hopefully when parents see this, it'll be reassuring to them and we can start to overcome this barrier."

HPV, the most common sexually transmitted virus in the United States, can cause cancers of the cervix, anus and parts of the throat. Federal health officials began recommending in 2006 that girls be vaccinated as early as age 11 and last year made a similar recommendation for preadolescent boys. The idea is to immunize boys and girls before they become sexually active to maximize the vaccine's protective effects.

Image: Tween girl and boy, via Shutterstock