Good news, parents: You no longer have to choose between protecting your daughter’s sexual purity and saving her life, reports Newsweek. How wonderful! How nice! What a relief! A new study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, suggests that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine does not cause little girls to become reckless little harlots, after all.
The vaccine is recommended for girls age 9 to 14 and protects against HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, the fourth most common cancer among women, according to Newsweek. But removing some of the potentially life-threatening consequences of sex really freaks some parents out!
“When parents are asked why they are hesitant to have their children receive the vaccine, one of the key issues they identify is the concern that the vaccine will encourage children and adolescents to make poorer sexual health choices,” said Gina Ogilvie, lead author of the study, in an interview with Newsweek.
As Jezebel reported several years ago, parents are often concerned that the vaccine will encourage girls to have sex, period (although the Centers for Disease Control found no such evidence).
This latest study found that the introduction of an HPV vaccine program in British Columbia schools in 2008 led to neither increased sexual behavior nor increased sexual risk. It surveyed nearly 300,000 heterosexual girls over the course of a decade. Newsweek explains:
From 2003 to 2013, the proportion of girls who had sex dropped from 21.3 to 18.3 percent. Girls who had sex before the age of 14, and substance use before intercourse “dropped significantly,” the authors of the study wrote. Girls were more likely to use condoms and contraception in 2013 than 2003. Rates of pregnancies fell, while the average number of sexual partners remained largely the same.
“These findings are consistent with studies in Scandinavia, and smaller clinic-based studies in the U.S., that confirm that adolescent young women do not make poor sexual health choices after the HPV vaccine,” said the study’s co-author, Elizabeth Saewyc of the University of British Columbia. “Teens today make healthier decisions about sex than their older peers—or even their parents.” So there.