HPV vaccine promotion doesn’t increase teen sex, study finds

Promoting the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine doesn’t appear to lead teens to engage in risky sexual behavior, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study compared U.S. states that had passed legislation promoting the HPV vaccine with states that didn’t. Teens living in the states that promoted the vaccine were not having more sex than teens in the other states, the researchers found.

Erin Cook led the research as part of her doctoral dissertation in epidemiology at Harvard Chan School. “The big takeaway is that passage of legislation regarding HPV didn’t seem to be associated with any changes in adolescent sexual behaviors in the sample of states we were able to look at,” she said in an August 13, 2018 PBS NewsHour article.

The HPV vaccine, which can prevent cancers caused by HPV infection such as cervical cancer, has been approved in the U.S. for girls since 2006 and for boys since 2011. But half of U.S. states don’t have policies promoting the vaccine, amidst attitudes that it may promote sexual promiscuity. The new study adds to existing evidence that teens are not basing their decisions on sexual behavior on whether they may get an HPV infection, according to the PBS article.

Read the PBS NewsHour article: Promoting the HPV vaccine doesn’t lead to more teen sex, study shows