In 2011, the US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the routine use of the HPV vaccine for all teen boys. But a new study found that HPV vaccination coverage was still relatively low among this group — leaving many teen boys susceptible to infection as they mature into adulthood.
"Following recommendations for routine HPV vaccination among male adolescents, uptake in 2013 was low in this population," wrote lead study author Peng-jun Lu, MD, PhD, of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and colleagues. "Increased efforts are needed to improve vaccination coverage, especially for those who are least likely to be vaccinated."
HPV is a group of more than 150 related viruses named for the genital warts (papillomas) some HPV types can cause. Other types of HPV can lead to cancers, particularly cervical cancer.
HPV is transmitted through intimate skin-to-skin contact, especially during sex, and even when an infected person shows no signs or symptoms. While there are more than 40 HPV types that can infect the genitals of both males and females, vaccines are available to prevent infection from the most common ones.
The HPV vaccine is given in three shots, with the second shot given one or two months after the first and the third shot given six months after the first. According to the CDC, receiving the full HPV vaccine series is one of the best ways to safeguard against infection.
According to the CDC, HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the US. And more than 50 percent of all sexually active men and women will acquire HPV in their lifetime. Each year in the US, an estimated 26,000 new cancers are also linked to HPV, including about 17,000 in women and 9,000 in men.
For this study, Dr. Lu and team looked at HPV vaccination rates among 9,554 teen boys after 2011 — when the vaccine was recommended for routine use for all boys ages 11 to 12 and all males ages 13 to 21 who had not been previously vaccinated or had not already completed the three-dose series.
In 2013, the rate of HPV vaccination with one or more doses was only about 35 percent. The rate of total series completion was also low, at about 14 percent.
Both total and partial vaccination were higher among teens who had visited a doctor in the past 12 months and among teens who had a well-child visit with a doctor at age 11 or 12.
The most common reasons parents reported for not vaccinating their teens included that the health care provider didn’t recommend it (24 percent), lack of knowledge (16.4 percent), safety concerns (7.3 percent), that the teen wasn't sexually active (8.1 percent) and feelings that the vaccine wasn't necessary (18.9 percent).
According to Dr. Lu and team, while vaccination rates have increased in recent years, these findings are cause for concern.
Dr. Lu and team said health care providers should routinely assess the HPV vaccination status of their patients, and efforts to provide information on HPV vaccination should be ongoing.
This study was published Oct. 26 in the journal Pediatrics.
No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.