Just days before the CDC made official a recommendation to vaccinate boys and young men against human papillomavirus (HPV), an investigative team in the Netherlands announced that increasing HPV vaccine uptake among preadolescent girls is more effective in reducing HPV infection than including boys in existing vaccination programs would be (PLoS Med. 2011;8:e1001147). 

Investigators found that most existing HPV vaccination programs have achieved sufficient coverage to continue with female-only vaccination. “Once routine vaccination of one sex is in place, increasing the coverage in that sex is much more effective in bolstering herd immunity than switching to a policy that includes both sexes,” the researchers wrote.

The study noted that bisexuality often acts as a bridge for transmission between heterosexual and homosexual subpopulations. “Female-only vaccination will never achieve the maximum possible reduction in HPV prevalence among [men who have sex with men], but the realized reductions could constitute a considerable health benefit.”

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Three days after the publication of the Dutch study, the CDC issued its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR. 2011;60;1705-1708) in which the agency made official the October 2011 recommendations on HPV vaccination for males in addition to females. These recommendations call for routine HPV vaccination for males aged 11 or 12 years (the three-dose vaccination series can be started beginning at age 9 years), and for males aged 13 through 21 years who were previously unvaccinated or who have not completed the three-dose series. Males aged 22 through 26 years may also be vaccinated.