Girls who received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine are no more likely to engage in risky sexual activity, a study from the University of B.C. suggests.
The study, published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at the sexual behaviour of teen girls for the decade between 2003 and 2013.
The HPV vaccine was rolled out to girls in Grade 6 and 9 in 2008 and for girls in Grade 6 after 2011.
HPV is a common, sexually transmitted infection that often resolves naturally without intervention. If left untreated, persistent infection with high-risk types of the virus can cause precancerous lesions that may progress to cervical, anal, or reproductive tract cancers.
Researchers looked at data 2003, 2008 and 2013 data from the BC Adolescent Health Survey, conducted among Grade 7 to 12 students every five years.
They found that only 18.3 per cent of teenage girls reported having sex in 2013, down from 20.6 in 2008 and 21.3 in 2003.
Those results were accompanied by a drop in girls under the age of 14 having sex and by a slight increase in condom use.
“What we have seen over the past 10 years is that young people are making healthier choices around sexual behaviours,” said UBC nursing professor and senior study author Elizabeth Saewyc.
“The knowledge and information about sexual health and the availability of the HPV vaccine to help prevent cancer has not changed things for the worse.”
The study had come after some parents expressed fears that the HPV vaccine would make their daughters more promiscuous, but Dr. Gina Ogilvie, lead study author and assistant director at the Women’s Health Research Institute at BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre, said that the study results did not point to that.
“These findings are consistent with studies in Scandinavia, and smaller clinic-based studies in the U.S. confirming that adolescent women do not make poorer sexual health choices after the HPV vaccine,” said Ogilvie, who is also the Canada Research Chair in Global Control of HPV-Related Disease and Cancer.
At 67 per cent, B.C. has one of the lowest HPV vaccination rates in the country.
According to B.C. Cancer, about 200 women in B.C. are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 50 die from it.