Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica |
An ounce of prevention —
Even when the vaccine is available, some parents are reluctant
Every year, nearly 34,000 cases of cancer in the US can be attributed to HPV, the human papillomavirus . The CDC estimates that vaccination could prevent around 93 percent of those cancers. Yet HPV vaccination rates are abysmal: only half of the teenagers in the US were fully vaccinated in 2017.
Cultural barriers play a role in that low rate. Vaccinating pre-teens against a sexually transmitted infection has had parents concerned that that this would encourage their kids to have sex sooner, with more partners, or without protection or birth control. And vaccine rates vary across different social and cultural groups: for instance, rural teenagers are less likely to be vaccinated than urban ones.
Two recent studies explore different facets of the cultural barriers standing in the way of better HPV vaccine uptake. The first, a paper published last month in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looks at the data on whether the vaccine encourages riskier sexual behavior and finds no evidence that it does. And the second, an early draft of a paper presented at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting this week, reports the results of a culturally-targeted intervention aiming to increase vaccine uptake among low-income Chinese Americans.
Hexbyte – Tech News – Ars Technica | The kids are alright
Although the vaccine is now recommended for both boys and girls, the initial drive was to get teenage girls vaccinated, given the link between HPV and cervical cancer. That’s why girls are the focus of the recent study on risky sexual behavior: the researchers used data from high school girls in Canada, where a huge survey on adolescent health is administered every few years.
A team of researchers was able to use this data to compare results from the survey before and after a large-scale HPV vaccine program was implemented across high schools in Canada in 2008. The researchers compared data from 2003, before the program began, to data from 2008 and 2013. Altogether, nearly 300,000 girls’ survey responses were analyzed.
The researchers found that, on every measure they looked at, risky sexual behaviors either decreased or stayed the same. The number of girls who had ever had sex decreased from 21.3 percent in 2003 to 18.3 percent in 2013. The girls who’d had sex before age 14 decreased from 14.3 percent to 10.2 percent, and girls who’d ever been pregnant went from 5.9 percent to 3.4 percent. The use of condoms increased, as did the use of birth control pills.
The researchers are careful to point out that they don’t think the HPV vaccine caused the increase in safe sex among the teenagers. That shift was already underway, they write, pointing to data showing “a downward trend in risky sexual behaviors since before 2003.” But it does suggest that the introduction