HPV Vaccine Doesn’t Affect Sexual Activity in Teen Girls

Aimee Simone, Assistant Editor
Published Online: Thursday, February 6, 2014
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Perceptions of the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease after receiving the first dose of the HPV vaccine were not associated with rates of risky sexual activity among adolescent girls, a study finds.

Although some parents may be concerned that vaccination against the human papillomavirus (HPV) will influence their child’s sexual perceptions and behavior, the results of a new study suggest that adolescent girls do not engage in riskier sexual behavior after receiving the vaccine.
The study, published online on February 2, 2014, in Pediatrics, analyzed how adolescents who had received the first dose of the HPV vaccine perceived their risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection and whether these perceptions led to changes in their sexual activity in the 6 months after receiving the vaccine. The researchers hypothesized that teens who felt they had a reduced risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections would be more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviors.
The study included 339 adolescent girls aged 13 to 21 who completed surveys immediately after receiving the first dose of the HPV vaccine on their demographics, their knowledge and attitudes about HPV vaccination, their risk perceptions, and their personal sexual behavior. The girls completed the same survey again 2 months and 6 months after vaccination. The researchers assessed rates of sexual initiation in adolescents who were sexually inexperienced when they received the vaccine and the number of partners and condom use among those who were already sexually experienced when they received the vaccine.
The results indicated that risk perceptions were not associated with sexual activity among sexually inexperienced or sexually experienced girls. During the 6-month study period, 20.2% of those who were sexually inexperienced at baseline initiated sex. Sexual initiation, however, was not significantly associated with risk perception. In addition, girls aged 16 to 21 who believed they had a lower risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections after receiving the HPV vaccination were, surprisingly, less likely to initiate sex during the study period.
Attitudes about infection risk and safe sex behavior were also not significantly associated with sexual activity among sexually experienced adolescents aged 13 to 16 or 16 to 21. The likelihood of condom use and the number of sexual partners for these participants were both unrelated to their risk perceptions after receiving the HPV vaccine.
The researchers suggest that risk perception after receiving the HPV vaccine may not be a major factor in adolescent girls’ decisions regarding sexual behavior and that they may consider a number of other factors while making these decisions. These results add to previous research indicating that HPV vaccination is unlikely to influence sexual activity in young women, and the authors are hopeful their findings will lead to increased vaccination coverage.
“Data demonstrating that HPV vaccination does not lead to riskier behaviors may allow clinicians to provide accurate, evidence-based information to address parental concerns and thereby increase vaccination rates,” they conclude.

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