Previous: Your Cell Phone Won't Give You Cancer
Next: Cold Weather Myths: Healthcare Triage



View count:20,064
Last sync:2024-05-08 10:00
Healthcare Triage Merchandise!

HPV vaccines and girls having sex. The flu shot and the difficulties combating myths. This is Healthcare Triage News.

For those of you who want to read more, go here:

John Green -- Executive Producer
Stan Muller -- Director, Producer
Aaron Carroll -- Writer
Mark Olsen -- Graphics


HPV vaccine and girls having sex, the flu shot, the difficulties combating myths. This is Healthcare Triage News.


 HPV Vaccines and Girls Having Sex

First up, a new study on whether the HPV vaccine makes girls more promiscuous. I covered the vaccine in one of our first episodes, you should go watch it if you didn't before. There are people who argue that if we vaccinate girls against a sexually transmitted infection, those girls will be more likely to have sex. The study I'm talking about made use of Ontario's administrative health database before and after the grade eight HPV vaccination program was begun. The researchers looked at whether a girl was vaccinated and then checked records to see if they got pregnant or got an STI in the next year. They controlled for a lot of stuff like you'd normally do.

There were more than 260,000 girls in this study, almost evenly split between girls who were eligible for the vaccine after it began or those who were ineligible because they weren't in eighth grade before it went into effect. Just over half of eligible girls got the vaccine, but only 1% of ineligible girls got it. So there's a clear difference there.

In the study period there were 15,441 pregnancies and/or sexually transmitted infections affecting 5.9% of the girls. There was no relationship between getting the vaccine and having one of those outcomes though. There was also no relationship between the eligible or ineligible group in having a bad outcome. There was no difference when they were analyzed together or when they were analyzed separately.

The conclusion states, and I quote, "we present strong evidence that HPV vaccination does not have any significant effect on clinical indicators of sexual behavior among adolescent girls. These results suggest that concerns over increased promiscuity following HPV vaccination are unwarranted and should not deter from vaccinating at a young age". Yeah!

 The Flu Shot and Difficulties Combating Myths

Speaking of vaccines, you all watched the Healthcare Triage episode on the flu shot, right? If not, go back and do so, then come back and get depressed. Anyone who's watched that episode, or reads my blog, or who's read one of my books knows that the flu shot cannot cause the flu. It can't. Yet, in a national survey published this week in the journal Vaccine by one of my New York Times colleagues, Brendan Nyhan, about 43% of Americans answered that it could. When I read that, my head hit the desk, I screamed loudly enough to frighten my co-workers, and I pledged to look for a Twitter avatar that's even more outraged than Marceline with fire shooting out of her eyes.
But the researchers went a step further; they gave people who answered the survey one of two interventions. The 'correction' intervention involved language adapted from the CDC which told people you can't get the flu from the flu shot. The 'danger' intervention tried to scare people about the flu by presenting them with facts about its risks. Both of these were intended to correct people's misconceptions about the flu and the flu shot and encourage them to go get it. The correction path did reduce false beliefs about the flu vaccine. The percentage of people who endorsed that flu shots cause the flu fell from 39% to 27% for low-concern people. And from 70% to 51% for high-concern people. Correction also reduced beliefs overall that the vaccine is unsafe. Danger didn't do much.

Then things get weird. Neither correction or danger led overall to more people getting the flu shot. In the subgroup of people most concerned about the vaccine's side effects though, correction actually led to fewer people getting the vaccine. Beforehand, 46% of people with high side effect concerns said that they were likely to get the vaccine. After reading 'correction', that percentage dropped to 28%.

In other words, when talking to people who don't want to get a flu shot because of myths, my efforts to correct their beliefs may be leading to fewer of them getting one. Even though I'm actually getting through to them. Maybe I'm making things worse, but seriously, I don't know what else to do.