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Study: HPV Vaccine Doesn't Encourage Risky Sexual Activity

CDC Survey Shows No Evidence That Vaccine Encourages Risk Taking Among Adolescents and Young Women

HPV Common in the Sexually Active continued...

The young women were surveyed between 2007 and 2008, after the first HPV vaccine became available.

Twice as many teens as women in their early 20s reported initiating the three-dose HPV vaccine series (30% vs. 15%). Liddon says this finding was not surprising because early efforts to promote the vaccine focused on teens.

Among the surveyed teens, race did not appear to be a factor in HPV vaccine coverage, but young women with health insurance were more likely to have had initiated HPV vaccination than young women without health insurance.

The survey did not include information on the young women’s ages at HPV vaccination, and it was not clear if vaccination occurred before or after they became sexually active.

Among sexually active women, those who had initiated HPV vaccination were more likely than unvaccinated women to report that they consistently used a condom during sex.

The researchers conclude that this may be because young women who are more concerned about practicing safe sex are also more likely to be vaccinated against HPV.

HPV Vaccination Rates Lagging

In a report released last August, CDC officials reported that HPV vaccination rates among teens are lagging behind two other vaccines introduced for the age group at close to the same time.

Melinda Wharton, MD, MPH, of the CDC, says it appears many health care providers are not offering the HPV vaccine to their young female patients at age 11 or 12 as recommended, but are instead vaccinating girls later.

Wharton is deputy director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.

“There is a sense that it is OK to wait until closer to the time that teens become sexually active,” she tells WebMD. “The problem is that you may be waiting until it is too late for vaccination to have an impact.”

She says pediatricians and other health care providers need to recommend the HPV vaccine as strongly as they recommend other immunizations.

The study is published in the latest issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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