HPV Vaccine Proven to Dramatically Reduce Infection Among Teenage Girls

Rates of infection dropped by 64 percent among 14 to 19-year-old women.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user NIAID

Since its introduction in 2006, the HPV vaccine has sharply cut the rate of infection in young women, a new study published on Pediatrics reports.

The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study Monday that reveals the impact of the vaccine six years after its inception. The rate of HPV dropped by 64 percent among teenage girls aged 14 to 19 and by 34 percent for women aged 20 to 24. The study did not include data on boys, but further research will be conducted.

Even though the vaccine has proven to be effective and is now recommended for all 11 to 12-year-old children, rates of vaccination are low: only 40 percent among teenage girls and 20 percent among teenage boys are receiving full dosages. Virginia, Rhode Island, and Washington, D.C. are the only states that require HPV vaccinations.

Why is that? Like most other debates about sexual health, activity, and education for minors, people are afraid that vaccinating their children would encourage risky sexual behavior in their adolescence. But the evidence of vaccinations leading to unsafe or higher rates of sexual activity simply doesn’t exist. Since 2001, the percentage of high school students who have had sex has not changed and a 2012 study found that girls who had received all three HPV shots were no more likely to get pregnant or get treated for sexually transmitted infections than girls who had not.

The arguments against vaccination also ignore another significant detail, which is that high-risk infections of HPV can cause several types of cancer—some of which can be fatal. Getting the shot not only reduces the risk of the sexually transmitted disease, but also of more severe medical conditions down the road. So really, there isn’t any reason you or your child should not be getting vaccinated.

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