A new study shoots big holes in one of the major criticisms of the HPV vaccine, by showing that young girls don't become more promiscuous after getting shots to protect against the sexually transmitted disease. The study published today in the journal Pediatrics found that girls who got HPV shots at age 11 or 12 were not more likely to seek out birth control, STD tests, or become pregnant than their counterparts who were unvaccinated. Unlike previous studies, this one examined those concrete outcomes, rather than just relying on girls to self-report their behavior.
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Robert Bednarczyk, the lead author of the study, says it "really demonstrates that getting the HPV vaccination is not somehow a signal to start having unprotected sex."
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Human papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the U.S. and is also a leading cause of cervical cancer. Federal officials recommend that all preadolescent girls and boys be immunized against the the most common strands of the virus, but many parents (and some doctors) are resistant to the idea, because they believe it will encourage more risky sexual behavior. (Texas Governor Rick Perry's executive order mandating the vaccination of 11 and 12-year-old girls in his state, became a major issue during the Republican primary battle last year.) Researchers hope the new evidence will put an end to those fears and increase the number of kids who get these important shots.