There is no link between the controversial HPV vaccine—derided as a "license to have sex" by critics—and increased sexual activity in vaccinated girls, a new study finds. Researchers examined the medical records of more than 1,000 girls who were vaccinated at age 11 or 12, looking for "markers" of sexual activity like STDs, pregnancy, or requests for birth control advice over the following three years, CBS reports. They found very low rates of the markers, and no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated girls.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted virus in the US and can cause several kinds of cancer, but vaccination rates remain low despite recommendations from health officials, the New York Times reports. Risky sexual behavior "has been raised as a concern around HPV vaccination and invoked as a reason for not vaccinating, but has no support empirically, and is clinically and ethically wrong," a pediatrics professor at Indiana University School of Medicine tells USA Today. The new study "really demonstrates that getting the HPV vaccination is not somehow a signal to start having unprotected sex," he says.