United Kingdom: HPV Jab Girls Are "Sex Cautious"

Young Manchester girls who received the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine said the shots made them more aware about the risks of sex, according to a new survey. The findings might serve as a rebuttal to critics who believe HPV vaccination would make girls more sexually promiscuous, experts said.

A University of Manchester team surveyed 553 girls ages 12-13 from two primary care trusts that offered the three-dose series of Cervarix, GlaxoSmithKline's HPV vaccine. Among those who received the shots, 79 percent "agreed with a statement that vaccination reminded them of the risks of sexual contact," the study found. However, 14 percent said "they might take more sexual risks because they had been vaccinated," it noted.

Among the girls, 77 percent said they participated in their family's decision regarding whether they should get the shots. Ten percent who received Cervarix did not want the shots, while 42 percent of girls whose parents refused the vaccine actually wanted it. A full 93 percent said receiving the vaccine demonstrated how serious they are about their health. One in five found the shot embarrassing because it prevents an STD.

"The vaccine was perceived to be painful, and there were exaggerated rumors of serious adverse events and needle scares," according to the Glaxo-funded study, which was conducted before Britain's national HPV vaccine program rollout.

"The HPV vaccine is an important step towards preventing cervical cancer in the UK, but it will only be truly successful if uptake is high," said Dr. Leslie Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK. "Despite the scare stories, this research suggests that the HPV vaccine could make the majority of girls more cautious about sex."

About 70 percent of girls ages 12-13 in England were given all three HPV shots during the vaccine program's first year.

The full report, "A Survey of Adolescent Experiences of Human Papillomavirus Vaccination in the Manchester Study," was published online ahead of the printed British Journal of Cancer (2009;doi:10.1038/sj.bcj.6605362).