There are over 100 varieties of human papillomavirus (HPV), an infection that can cause warts anywhere from the bottom of your feet to your privates, depending on which strain you have. Over 40% of the strains affect the genitals; while the majority of HPV strains do not cause cancer, some types of genital HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. (Men can pass along HPV, but generally do not show any visible symptoms.)
“Gardasil 9 has the potential to prevent approximately 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers,” the FDA said in a statement. The current versions of the HPV vaccine protect against only two or four types.
Since it became available and highly recommended in 2006, the HPV vaccine has seen its fair share of both praise and scrutiny from the medical community and political world. One big concern in particular, that giving a vaccine for an STI to tween girls (it is recommended they start the three-shot series at age 11 or 12) will encourage them to be more promiscuous.
That concern has recently been dismissed by a new study published in The Canadian Medical Association Journal. The Canadian study analyzed data on 260,493 girls, whom researchers followed for an 4.5 years on average. During that time, they recorded two indicators of sexual behavior: the incidence of pregnancy and development of other STIs unrelated to HPV. What they found was that girls who were eligible for the vaccination did not have any higher rates of risky sexual behavior than those who were ineligible and definitely did not receive the vaccination. “These results suggest that concerns over increased promiscuity following HPV vaccination are unwarranted and should not deter from vaccinating at a young age,” the researchers wrote.
Since the vaccine is recommended to be administered before girls become sexually active, studies like this one (and this one from a few years ago) can help to get rid of that stigma and get more young women protected.