Young people * Women's health

Cervical jab makes girls more cautious about sex

Zone default image Fears of sex at a younger age unfounded, study says

Eight out of ten girls say that having the HPV vaccine makes them think twice about the risks of having sex, a new survey has found.

The HPV vaccine prevents girls being infected by two strains of human papilloma virus, responsible for 70% of cervical cancer cases in the UK. Both viruses are sexually transmitted.

Vaccinations of 12 and 13 year old girls started in September 2008, amidst speculation in some parts of the media that it would lead to girls having sex at a younger age.

However, the survey is the first to focus on girl's views of the vaccine, rather than their parents.

The survey was funded by the HPV vaccine manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline.

Researchers questioned over 500 twelve and thirteen year olds from Manchester, who had been offered the vaccine before it was available nationally.

Of these, an overwhelming majority (93%) thought that having the vaccine showed you were serious about your health, and 79% said the vaccine reminded them of the risks of sex.

But 14% said they might take more sexual risks because of it.

Nearly four in five girls said they discussed the decision to have the vaccine with their parents beforehand.

Parental support was also important to the success of the vaccination programme – of the girls whose parents refused the vaccine, 42% actually wanted to be vaccinated.

And 10% of those who were vaccinated didn’t want it.

Dr Lesley Walker, director of cancer information at Cancer Research UK, said: “Despite the scare-stories, this research suggests that the HPV vaccine could make the majority of girls more cautious about sex.

“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.

“It’s important that girls also get appropriate sex education so that they’re all aware of the risks of sex.

“This research gives us important insights into how we can help to maximise the uptake of the vaccine and allay any fears girls and parents may have.”

Results from the study are published in this month's British Journal of Cancer .

This article was published on Tue 27 October 2009

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