The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is routinely administered to adolescent girls; now the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending the vaccine for 11- and 12-year-old boys as well. The vaccine has been approved for use in both adolescent girls and boys to protect them against HPV but has been somewhat underutilized in girls and rarely used in boys. HPV causes genital warts and cervical cancer in women and the vaccine effectively reduces the rate of both. The vaccine is generally recommended for 11 and 12 year olds when they get other routine vaccines, and before they become sexually active. Although the vaccine is approved for boys, the CDC had not made a recommendation on routine use until now. After evaluating data on efficacy in males, the committee felt that the vaccine could protect boys against genital warts, as well as throat and anal cancer caused by HPV, and could help prevent spread of the virus to girls.

In related news, a new study shows the HPV vaccine is effective in preventing anal intraepithelial neoplasia in men who have sex with men. In a double-blind study of 602 men (ages 16-26) who have sex with men, half were randomized to the quadravalent HPV vaccine and half to placebo. The vaccine reduced the risk of anal intraepithelial neoplasia caused by the four subgroups of HPV covered by the vaccine (HPV-6, 11, 16, and 18) by half in the intention-to-treat population and by 77% in the per-protocol population. Anal intraepithelial neoplasia caused by HPV of any type was reduced by 25.7% and 54.9%, respectively. Rates of anal intraepithelial neoplasia per 100 person years were 17.5 in the placebo group and 13 in the vaccine group in the intention-to-treat, and 8.9% placebo vs 4.0% vaccine in the per-protocol population. The rate of grade 2 or 3 anal intraepithelial neoplasia related to HPV subtypes covered by the vaccine was reduced by 54.2% (intention-to-treat) and 74.9% (per-protocol). The vaccine was well tolerated. The authors conclude that the HPV vaccine reduced the rate of anal intraepithelial neoplasia in men who have sex with men and may help reduce the risk of anal cancer (N Engl J Med 2011;365:1576-1585).