UM study shows low HPV vaccination rates in young adult men in the US
The COVID-19 vaccine has no problem attracting applicants.
But there is another, older model that has been largely ignored by young men of America: the HPV vaccine.
Using data from the National Health Interview Surveys 2010-2018, researchers at Michigan Medicine found that only 16% of men ages 18-21 had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine at any age. By comparison, 42% of women in the same age group had received at least one shot of the vaccine.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends two doses of the vaccine at 11 or 12 years of age. However, Americans can still benefit from the HPV vaccine if they receive it later, as long as they receive three doses by the age of 26.
In the UM study, however, even among those vaccinated after age 18, fewer than a third of men received all three doses of the vaccine, and about half of women.
18-21 year olds are at this age when they make their own health care decisions for the first time. They are in a transition phase, but especially young adult men who are less likely to have a GP, often do not receive health education on things like cancer prevention vaccines. “
Michelle M. Chen, MD, clinical instructor, Department of Otorhinolaryngology, and lead study author
The HPV vaccine is designed to prevent reproductive warts and cancers caused by the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The FDA approved the vaccine for women in 2006 and expanded it to men in 2009.
At that time, prevention of cervical cancer was a priority, so girls and women were more likely to hear about it from their pediatricians or gynecologists. Oropharyngeal cancer, which occurs in the throat, tonsils, and back of the tongue, has now surpassed cervical cancer as the main cancer caused by HPV – and 80% of those diagnosed with it are men.
“I don’t think a lot of people, both providers and patients, know that this vaccine is actually a cancer prevention vaccine for men and women,” says Chen. “But HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer can affect anyone – and there isn’t good screening for which makes vaccination even more important.”
Chen believes a two-pronged approach is needed to increase HPV vaccination rates for men. Pediatricians are again pushing for children and liaising with health services and fraternities for the young adult population who may not have received the vaccine when they were younger. Pharmacists and emergency and emergency room providers could also be helpful allies.
Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan
Chen, MM, et al. (2021) HPV Vaccination in Young Adults in the United States. JAMA. doi.org/10.1001/jama.2021.0725.