Good news for sexual-health advocates: A new study finds that vaccinating teenagers against the human papillomavirus won’t make them become reckless, unsafe-sex-having machines. The new findings, released Monday, compared medical records of 21,000 vaccinated young women to 180,000 unvaccinated women, to see whether the vaccinated group had higher rates of sexually transmitted infections than others.
It found that the rates of sexually transmitted infections were comparable, suggesting that the vaccine didn’t alter safer sex practices. The three-dose HPV vaccine cuts the risk of contracting the cancer-linked virus — which can be spread through skin-to-skin contact — by up to 82 percent. It is recommended for young teenagers who haven’t yet become sexually active. “I’d like to emphasize that [higher rates of unsafe sex are] a real concern,” said study author Anupam Jena. “It’s not something to automatically dismiss but that’s why we need some scientific evidence to show we’re on the right path.”
Though it was introduced in 2006, the HPV vaccine hasn’t been used as widely in the United States as in peer countries. (In Australia, rates of vaccination are 80 to 90 percent and the vaccine is highly effective.) That’s because it has its own share of anti-vaxxers: The vaccine has been plagued by claims that it will lead young people to have more sex — and less safe sex.