HPV Vaccination Does Not Increase Promiscuity Among Adolescents

It's a vaccine against sexually transmitted cancer



On February 3, 2015, libertarian radio host Andrew Wilkow invited me to discuss the risks and benefits of vaccination. We disagreed: Mr. Wilkow is considerably more worried about the risks than is warranted by the scientific evidence. During the segment, Mr. Wilkow stated that he did not plan to have his two-year old daughter vaccinated against the human papilloma virus (HPV).

Infection with human papilloma virus is responsible for about 11,967 new cases of HPV-associated cervical cancer and for about 2,370 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers in women and nearly 9,356 new cases in men each year in the United States. During the radio segment, I mentioned that a male friend had recently died of HPV-associated head-and-neck cancer. I failed to mention that another male friend is being treated for that cancer now.

Mr. Wilkow argued that since the vaccine immunizes against a sexually transmitted disease that he saw no reason to have his daughter vaccinated against it. The series of three HPV injections is recommended to start after age 9, so Mr. Wilkow has time to reconsider.

Mr. Wilkow is, however, not alone in his opposition to HPV vaccination. A 2014 study in Clinical Pediatrics reported the results of a survey of parents' actions regarding HPV vaccination. The researchers found: 

A significantly higher proportion of parents of girls who were non-Hispanic white, lived in households with higher incomes, and had mothers with higher education levels, delayed and/or refused vaccination.

Another of the early concerns by some opponents of HPV vaccine is that it might encourage sexual promiscuity by lessening adolescent fears of getting sexually transmitted diseases. Several studies have looked at this issue and all have found no such link. The latest study just published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine is reassuring on that account. The researchers compared the sexually transmitted disease incidence (STI) among vaccinated and unvaccinated adolescent females. The study found:

Human papillomavirus vaccination was not associated with increases in STIs in a large cohort of females, suggesting that vaccination is unlikely to promote unsafe sexual activity.

If you could immunize your kids against breast or prostate cancer you would, wouldn't you? So why not vaccinate against these cancers?

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  1. Parents, just tell your precious snowflakes that sure, the HPV vaccine can keep you from getting genital warts but you can still catch incurable herpes so never have any sexual contact with anyone ever.

    Slightly OT, on the local news this morning there was a discussion of measles parties – evidently some parents, worried that their kids will catch autism or something from vaccines, will, in fact, deliberately expose their children to the potentially deadly disease measles so they can become immune by having it. It was said to be popular in California.

    How did people become so goddamn dumb?

    1. … some parents, worried that their kids will catch autism or something from vaccines, will, in fact, deliberately expose their children to the potentially deadly disease measles so they can become immune by having it.

      Who am I to question the inexorable march of natural selection, which was, until lately, so reliable a method of eliminating bad genes from the population?

    2. Ookie Mouth?

    3. Same thing was happening with chickenpox a while back.

      1. the logic behind chickenpox was that if you caught it as an adult it is actually much worse than if you caught it as a child.

        I don’t know if its just urban myth or not though. I had it as a kid and have never really thought about it since. Except when that one former NFL player does the shingles PSA.

  2. Then why do they call the vaccine Nymphozine?

  3. I can’t believe anyone could be surprised by this. Considering that this does nothing to reduce the threat of pregnancy, getting HIV or the clap, no longer having the threat of getting an often benign virus is unlikely to make those teenagers who were not having sex already decide to have it or those who were to have more.

    1. if you think most adolescents a) know what the clap is, or b)are good at assessing risk in such situations, I’ve got plenty of things I would like to sell you.

      1. That is their problem. Moreover, since the vast majority of them manage to grow up without getting those things, their ability to assess risk likely exceeds your estimate.

        1. I don’t think is based on risk assessment skills nearly as much as it is based on the fact that these STDs are nearly nonexistent in their peer groups.

  4. Does anything increase or decrease promiscuity among adolescents other than time alone together without supervision?

    Even then, I’ve always held the unscientifically proven notion that some are promiscuous and others aren’t. Given the opportunity many simply choose not to.

    1. Alcohol?

      1. I think those who drink are likely to also be those who are promiscuous. I’m curious though, if it’s simple correlation.

      2. Video Games

    2. Naughty by nature?

      1. only those that are down with O.P.P.

        1. You know me?

  5. …In each instance, the actual trend of 60 years of data had been dramatically reversed, so that a cooling trend was changed to one that showed a marked warming.

    This was only the latest of many examples of a practice long recognised by expert observers around the world ? one that raises an ever larger question mark over the entire official surface-temperature record.…..-ever.html

    1. Yep, that was posted in the morning link thread. I haven’t seen a rebuttal article yet, though I hear there is one. I also hear there is a rebuttal to that rebuttal, so lots of reading to do after work.

  6. 2,370 new cases of HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancers in women

    DAMNIT! It’s hard enough to get a bj without this doom statistic making the rounds.

    1. Yeah, this study needs to be burned;

      *Note: This study used cancer registry data to estimate the amount of potentially HPV-associated cancer in the United States by examining cancer in parts of the body and cancer cell types that are more likely to be caused by HPV. Cancer registries do not collect data on the presence or absence of HPV in cancer tissue at the time of diagnosis. Cancers in this area of the body are usually caused by tobacco and alcohol, but recent studies show that about 72% of oropharyngeal cancers are caused by HPV!!!!!!!!!

      (emphasis mine)

      1. Am I missing something or does that last sentence directly contradict itself?

        1. what, you don’t think 28% counts as most? THAT’S why you’re not a TOP MAN in the field.

  7. HPV Vaccination Does Not Increase Promiscuity Among Adolescents

    Well then why are we giving it to them?

    1. Um, are you actually assuming that adolescents aren’t promiscuous…?

      1. only 1/3 of adolescents are sexually active. I don’t think that leads to an assumption of promiscuity…

    2. P: bassjoe is right – it doesn’t increase adolescent promiscuity.

      1. but if only 33 out of 100 adolescents are sexually active (let’s sub this for promiscuity, since it’s the larger group) were they ever promiscuous?

        1. I’d say we’ve got room to grow then. But the evidence clearly shows that the HPV isn’t the way to make that happen.

          More research needed.

          1. i think showing a live birth video to a coed group of 6th graders was probably enough to keep people’s legs closed…

            Maybe we could sub it out with something else?

  8. Given the risk of a kid doing risky behavior as a teenager, yeah I’d want them inoculated against diseases resulting from risky behavior.

    Of course, there isn’t, and probably never will be, an inoculation against all results of teen stupidity, so there’s still a role for parents educating and disciplining their children. And since the schools probably won’t support them, leaving the parents to act on their own, it’s all the more important.

  9. Anyone who seriously thinks a teenager is less likely to have pre-marital sex out of fear of getting HPV is a moron.

    I’m not even sure I knew what HPV was when I was 15, and I don’t think at that age I would have passed up sex because someone said ‘hey, if you have sex then theoretically you could get a kind of STD that might increase your chances of developing cancer in 15 years.’

    1. Ha. At 15, I didn’t even think I would be alive at 30.

  10. Anyone else ever see the bumper sticker “My kid knocked up your honor student”

  11. What about those of us who are taking a wait and see approach on the effectiveness and safety of that vaccine before we go stick our kids with it?

    Also, I would say the resistance has been a backlash against the Texas decision to make it mandatory more than anything else. Please explain to me the state’s interest in mandating a vaccine for a disease that is non-communicable except during sexual contact.

    1. THIS^

      1. Also, how I don’t have something baffles me (due to an excess of Flex money and other health factors I have had several complete blood profiles). You ever see the Corsican Brothers? I fit that description. I am glad I am married now. I don’t have to worry about it.

    2. Please explain to me the state’s interest in mandating a vaccine for a disease that is non-communicable except during sexual contact.

      Pure politics. Outside a larger movement and unless it included boys, this was doomed to every kind of failure.

      The fact that VAERS had reports for such a small cohort should (have) set ‘wait and see’ warning bells as well.

      1. dolla bills, yo.

    3. Please explain to me the state’s interest in mandating a vaccine for a disease that is non-communicable except during sexual contact.

      Except that it is transmissible through other than sexual contact. HPV can live for a long time outside the human body (unlike HIV which lives for 15 seconds max). So infected guy takes a piss, and touches his penis. Doesn’t wash. Then touches someone else. Think sports, etc.

      Don’t come whining to me when your kid develops oropharyngeal cancer because you were an idiot.

      1. The advice towards urologists is that hand-to-genital is not a major concern unless you are performing surgery, specifically laser ablation where it can put the virus into the air. Otherwise, there is only suspicion that transmission is possible but not proven.

        Neither are there persuasive data to indicate that the examining physician is at risk of contracting HPV through hand-to-genital contact during physical examination or of transmitting the virus to subsequent patients.

        When you have kids of your own, feel free to stick them with whatever new treatment comes out. Having had a doctor who put my kid in the hospital because of giving them inappropriate meds, I’m much more conservative towards medication now.

  12. How likely is it that cervical cancer will not be “cured” by the time that a now-two-year-old could get it?

    1. i wouldn’t put all of her eggs in that one basket.

    2. sv: ounce of prevention instead of pound of cancer cure.

      1. Re: Ron Bailey,

        Vaccinating a whole population of girls and/or boys is a LOT of ounces of “prevention,” Ron. Sounds to me like someone – Glaxo – is seeking to recoup their development costs by allying themselves with fascistic government.

    3. Any excuse to not vaccinate against in icky “venereal” disease, eh?

  13. So has vaccination officially been added to the Mexican marijuana ass-sex meme yet or does Bailey need to stick to it a while yet?

    1. *stick* to it, ha.

  14. The closest comparison is Hepatitis B, which is spread similarly and has similar annual cases and deaths. A decent number of people also decline or are skeptical of the vaccine for Hep B.

  15. HPV Vaccination Does Not Increase Promiscuity Among Adolescents

    It is proven to increase Glaxo’s profits whenever HPV vaccination is imposed by government force.

  16. If you could immunize your kids against breast or prostate cancer you would, wouldn’t you?

    Is there such a vaccine?

    No? Then the question is merely academic. I will NOT immunize my male children against HPV, if that is what you’re asking, unless you have Glaxo stock you want to donate to my retirement fund.

  17. This article has nothing to do with individual liberty questions. Why is Reason wasting time promoting specific vaccines? Are you guys moonlighting as pharmaceutical reps?

    Look, we totally get your side of this contentious issue. No reason to beat a dead horse. Now I promise to make everyone I know buy a subscription to Reason, if you stop with the mutherf’ing vaccine stories. Deal?

  18. Because 9 YOs aren’t sexually active, and since the vaccine isn’t of a live virus, its effect will likely have worn off by the time they are sexually active.

  19. Maybe the vaccine is something people can consider. However, there are calls (and possibly state laws — Texas?) to require this relatively new vaccine for all adolescent girls. This is not the measles or polio, where there is a solid argument for mandatory vaccination. Unless I’m totally off base, this is a vaccine that is still covered by patent, and mandatory vaccination would be a huge windfall for Merck and possibly one other company.

    Let me know if I’m wrong, or confusing it with something else.

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