New findings reported in The New England Journal of Medicine suggest that vaccinating young men against human papillomavirus (HPV), which cause the majority of cervical and anal cancers and a smaller proportion of other cancers, resulted in reduced infections and incidence of external genital lesions, primarily genital warts. In an editorial accompanying the article, published online in NEJM February 3, 2011, HSPH’s Jane Kim highlights the arguments for and against routine vaccination of boys (currently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine vaccination for girls as young as nine).
Kim calls the findings “cause to celebrate the extraordinary potential for HPV vaccination to improve health in both women and men.” However, in previous work, Kim found that vaccinating boys was generally not a good value for resources except under special circumstances. For example, in the current editorial, she writes that if the vaccination rate of girls in the United States remains low, routine vaccination of boys may be cost-effective.
“To maximize the benefits to the population’s health from health services and interventions, we have a responsibility to use resources as efficiently as possible,” she writes. “Equally important is our responsibility to revisit policy decisions as influential new data and new technologies become available, as they undoubtedly will in the case of the prevention and control of HPV-related diseases.”