Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the US. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 79 million Americans, mostly adolescents and young adults, are infected with HPV. Nine out of ten HPV infections clear within two years; however, infections that last longer can cause certain cancers. Each year, HPV causes 30,700 cancers in American men and women; over 90% of these are preventable by the vaccine. The HPV vaccine was introduced in 2006 and 2009 for females and males, respectively, starting at age 11 years. Historically, HPV vaccination rates in men have been substantially lower than in women, but current research indicates that this sex disparity is slowly closing.

According to a Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine study published in late March 2018, the HPV vaccination rates among US males increased by over 250%, from 7.8% in 2011–2012 to 27.4% in 2015–2016, as shown in Figure 1. In contrast, US females only saw a 21% increase during this time period, from 37.7% in 2011–2012 to 45.7% in 2015–2016, also shown in Figure 1. The findings from this study demonstrate that vaccination rates in men are on the rise, and will likely be comparable to rates observed in women in the next five years.

The fading sex disparity in vaccination rates is likely due to the introduction of gender-neutral HPV vaccination recommendations in 2011. In addition, increased promotion in the primary care setting and changing attitudes towards the vaccine likely played a role. While the increase in HPV vaccination among both sexes is encouraging, coverage still remains below the national target of greater than 80% by 2020. To continue improving vaccination coverage, future strategies should be aimed at desexualising HPV, advocating early use in eligible children, and educating patients to overcome common misconceptions.

Figure 1: Sex-Specific HPV Vaccination Rates in the US, Ages 9–26 Years, 2011–2016

Source: GlobalData; Patel et al., 2018.


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