Australia to Provide HPV Vaccine to Boys

Emma Hitt, PhD

July 18, 2012

July 18, 2012 — Australia has become the first country to provide coverage of the human papillomavirus (HPV) quadrivalent (types 6, 11, 16, and 18) vaccine (Gardasil, Merck) to boys between the ages of 12 and 13 years in a national immunization program.

In a press release from the Australian government, the minister of health, Tanya Plibersek, noted that the program would synergize with the current immunization program in girls to decrease the incidence of HPV infection in the Australian population.

In addition, for the next 2 years, boys older than 13 years will also receive the vaccine under a catch-up program so as to provide further coverage. The National HPV Vaccination Program in Australia has provided the HPV vaccine to all girls through school programs at age 12 to 13 years since 2007. This "herd immunity" approach is expected to help eliminate HPV infections, which are associated with cervical, penile, and other cancers.

"With Australia's acknowledgement of infectious transmission through both boys and girls alike, the bulk of the western and high-income countries will be forced to reroute the conversation towards increasing immunization coverage among at-risk populations," the press release states.

According to information on the Australian Government's Web site, between 2007 and 2009, through the National HPV Vaccination Catch-up Program (both school- and community-based), 72% of girls aged 14 and 15 years and nearly 66% of girls aged 16 and 17 years received the full 3 doses of the vaccine needed to protect them from HPV.

In the United States, only about one third of teenage girls have received the full 3 doses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC recommends HPV vaccine for 11- or 12-year-old girls to protect against the types of HPV that cause cervical cancer, and it also recommends teenage girls who have not yet been vaccinated with HPV vaccine complete the vaccination series. HPV vaccines are given in 3 doses over the course of 6 months. To ensure the highest level of protection, girls must complete all 3 shots.

On October 25, 2011, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices also recommended routine use of quadrivalent HPV vaccine in boys aged 11 or 12 years. The committee also recommended HPV vaccination for boys aged 13 through 21 years who have not initiated or completed the 3-dose series.

The American Academy of Pediatrics in February also published new guidelines for the use of the HPV vaccine, and for the first time specifically recommended use of the vaccine in adolescent boys as well as girls.

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