Why Do Boys Have to Get the HPV Vaccine?

Paul A. Offit, MD, explains why boys benefit from receipt of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine and the reason this question is often asked.


Why do boys have to get the HPV vaccine?

Paul Offit: Hi, my name's Paul Offit. I'm talking to you today from the Vaccine Education Center here at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

A common question that we get asked is, “Why do boys need the HPV vaccine?” Well, the simple answer to that question is because boys can get anal and genital warts caused by HPV, and boys can get cancers — cancers of the head and neck, cancers of the anal and genital area caused by HPV. In fact, of the roughly 25,000 cases of cancer that will be prevented by HPV for Gardasil® 4, or the roughly 30,000 cases of cancer that would be prevented by Gardasil® 9, about a third of those cancers occur in boys and men, so that's why they need to get it.

I think the reason that question has come up is because when the vaccine was first licensed for adolescents in 2006, it was initially only recommended for girls. So I think that confused people to think that it's really only of value in girls. The reason that was true was really all the data at that time had been generated in girls, and so hence the recommendation. Now, we have abundant data that the vaccine is safe and effective and protective in boys, and so hence the recommendation is included now — all adolescent boys and girls.

So do boys need to get an HPV vaccination? Of course they do because it can prevent what is a common cause of anal, genital and head and neck cancers.

Related Centers and Programs: Vaccine Education Center