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Parents need to consider HPV vaccination facts

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Updated: Tuesday, October 16, 2012 12:10

A study released Monday found that the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination, which protects against cervical cancer, is not correlated to promiscuity in girls.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in January that based on self-reporting surveys about sexual activity, the vaccine does not promote sexual activity among girls, but the study released Monday — published in the journal Pediatrics — is the first medical study released measuring the two factors against each other.

The HPV vaccination protects against the most common strains of the virus, which can cause cervical, anal, vaginal, vulvar and throat cancers. The CDC recommends the vaccine series for both boys and girls aged 11 to 26, but has met pushback from parents afraid that vaccinating their children will make them think it is OK to have sex, since HPV is sexually transmitted.

Perhaps the most skeptical of parents won’t be convinced by this correlation, but parents should look at this latest study when deciding whether or not to vaccinate their children. Just as importantly, they should be prepared to add education about sex and the vaccine to their children’s medical regimen.

The vaccine is important for protecting lives, and parents can’t continue to let their “squeamishness,” as one mother described her feelings to NPR, put their children at risk of a preventable virus.

The study of 1,400 girls, done by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research Southeast and Emory University, compared medical records for those girls who had and who had not received the HPV vaccination series. It looked at pregnancy rates, sexually transmitted infection (STI) contraction rates and counseling statistics, according to NPR.

It found that data from the two groups did not differ enough to find a correlation between the vaccine and sexual health issues.

According to a CDC survey of high school students in 2011, 47.4 percent of high school students said they have had sex, and almost half of all new STIs reported were among 15- to 24-year-olds.

At least half of people who are sexually active will contract one strain of HPV during their lives, according to the CDC, and about 15,000 HPV-related cancers per year can be prevented by vaccination.

With these statistics, parents need to get over their “squeamishness” and take real steps to protect their children against STIs and cancer. The HPV vaccine is just one step in this process.

Instead of being uncomfortable with discussing their children’s sexual lives, parents should protect their children from preventable diseases and find solace in knowing that according to a medical study vaccination is not linked to increased sexual activity
 

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