Legislation to Increase HPV Vaccinations Did Not Increase Adolescent Sexual Behaviors

HPV vaccination has not been associated with increased risky sexual behavior among high school students
high school graduation

A new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health examined the impact state legislation has had on sexual activity among 886,981 high school students and the administration of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.

Currently, 23 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation designed to boost vaccination rates by providing HPV education in schools.

According to these researchers, these state policies have been controversial, because parents worry that endorsing the HPV vaccine to children will encourage them to have sex too soon or without protection.

These Harvard researchers analyzed data on sexual activity from the school-based state Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (YRBSS)  from 2001 to 2015, before and after HPV vaccine legislation was enacted in 16 states.

Overall, 715,338 study participants reported having sexual intercourse in the last 3 months, and 217,077 sexually active participants reported recent condom use.

These researchers found no difference in risky sexual behaviors among teens in states with HPV legislation when compared to teens in states without legislation.

In fact, this study concluded that many indicators of risky sexual activity among teens, such as teen pregnancy rates, have decreased in recent years, while access to the HPV vaccination has increased.

Study authors conclude concerns that state legislation will increase risky adolescent sexual behaviors should not be used as a deterrent when deciding to pass legislation that would encourage HPV vaccination.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends HPV vaccination for girls and boys starting at age 11.

However, despite the availability of the vaccines, uptake remains low, with only 49.5 percent of girls and 37.5 percent of boys, having up-to-date HPV vaccinations in 2016.

HPV is among the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Most HPV infections don’t cause symptoms and go away on their own, but the virus can cause cancers of the cervix, penis, and throat, says the CDC.

Recently, a separate study confirmed the effectiveness of the quadrivalent HPV vaccine in women up to 20 years of age, who receive all 3 vaccine doses.

This research is important, since every year, approximately 19,400 women are affected by cancers caused by HPV, says the CDC.

HPV vaccination services are found in most pharmacies and physician offices in the USA.

To schedule a vaccination appointment, please visit this page.

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides HPV vaccine prices for general information.

And vaccine discounts can be found here.

Vaccines, like any medicine, can have side effects. You are encouraged to report negative side effects of vaccines to the FDA or CDC.

This Harvard research was supported by grants R25 CA 98566-10, T32 CA 009001-40, and T32 ES 007069. Funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

These researchers did not disclose conflicts of interest. Address correspondence to Erin E. Cook, MPH, ScD, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115. E-mail: [email protected]