The U.S. has terribly low HPV vaccination rates when compared to the United Kingdom and Australia. Reinforcing the testimony submitted to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in February, we took action with colleague organizations this week to encourage the federal government to change that trend. Read the June testimony here.

The HPV and Anal Cancer Foundation led a coalition of eleven organizations in submitting joint testimony to a hearing at the CDC on Wednesday, June 22 in support of routine HPV vaccination in males.

The Foundation was joined by GMHC, The Farrah Fawcett Foundation, The Oral Cancer Foundation, National Cervical Cancer Coalition, Project Inform, Global Initiative Against HPV and Cervical Cancer, National LGBT Cancer Network, International Rectal Microbicide Advocates, Kristen Forbes Eve Foundation, and the American Social Health Association.

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), the federal agency focused on U.S. vaccine policy, is considering how to implement HPV vaccine policy for boys and men.

The ACIP hearing is essentially a health policy discussion. The quadrivalent HPV vaccine is already recognized by the federal government as protecting against HPV-related cancers in both men and women, including anal, cervical, vulvar, and vaginal cancers (as well as genital warts). The ACIP has already “recommended” that girls and women obtain the vaccine. This hearing is about whether to expand that policy to boys and men. The ACIP currently labels the vaccine “permissive” for males, which in this case means that the vaccine is considered effective in men, but the agency has not yet elevated its status to “routinely recommended.” A routine recommendation has broader implications for insurance companies as well as local and federal health programs than permissive vaccines.

Topics of discussion for the meeting included duration of protection for the vaccine, cost effectiveness, and HPV-associated oropharyngeal cancer. The vaccine has not yet been approved for the prevention of head and neck cancer, but recent studies have shown a strong association between some types of head and neck cancers and HPV. A question explored at the hearing was whether the HPV vaccine could help prevent those cancers, as well.

Vaccination against HPV, a virus, is the best shot we have to prevent HPV-caused anal cancer and other HPV-related cancers. There are currently few options for people with advanced disease and effective therapeutic options take years to develop.

In addition to highlighting the federal government’s recognition of the effectiveness of the HPV vaccine in preventing HPV-associated diseases, the testimony addressed the moral and health imperative to expand the vaccine to males. Anal cancer is on the rise in women and men, especially in the HIV-positive population. HPV-related oropharyngeal cancers are increasing in the male population and it is difficult to detect the cancer early. HPV-cancers are often stigmatized and can be difficult to treat. Men and women equally carry and transmit HPV. To prevent cancer in the highest number of Americans, both the male and female population should be given the same access and encouragement to obtain the vaccine.

We are proud to stand with our colleagues in asking the CDC to expand the “routine recommendation” to include boys and men.