The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine known as Gardasil is not associated with an increase in pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, or contraceptive counseling, according to a Kaiser Permanente study published online today in the journal Pediatrics.
Since 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that girls ages 11 receive three doses of the vaccine to protect them from HPV, which is transmitted through sexual activity and can cause genital warts and cervical, penile, vaginal, and head and neck cancers. The vaccine is also recommended for females ages 13 who did not receive the vaccine when they were younger, and for males ages 11.
But the vaccine has been slow to catch on. By 2010, fewer than half of girls eligible for Gardasil had received even one dose. Since the introduction of Gardasil, there have been concerns-raised both in peer-reviewed literature and the popular media-that use of the vaccine might lead to increased sexual activity, due in part to the mistaken belief that Gardasil protects against pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases other than HPV. This new study, which was an independent research project funded by Kaiser Permanente and Emory University, shows there is no evidence to support these concerns.
"Our study found a very similar rate of testing, diagnosis and counseling among girls who received the vaccine and girls who did not," said Robert Bednarczyk, PhD, an epidemiologist and the study's lead author. "We saw no increase in pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections or birth control counseling - all of which suggest the HPV vaccine does not have an impact on increased sexual activity."
Bednarczyk is a clinical investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research-Southeast in Atlanta, and an epidemiologist with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
"This is reassuring news for teenagers, parents, and members of the public. Our study adds to growing evidence that the HPV vaccine is a safe and effective way to prevent these rare but sometimes deadly cancers," added Robert Davis, MD, MPH, a co-author and senior investigator with the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research-Southeast.