HPV vaccine not just for females

The controversial human papillomavirus vaccine, which protects against the cervical cancer-causing HPV, can be administered in both males and females, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

HPV is a common virus spread by skin-to-skin contact during sexual activity. The virus is responsible for causing approximately 18,000 HPV-associated cases of cancer annually in the United States, but also causes approximately 7,000 cases of cancer in males annually.

The CDC recommends HPV vaccination for preteen girls and boys at age 11 or 12, which is a course of three HPV vaccine doses prior to sexual contact.

Vaccination against the virus has been the subject of controversy, as the opponents to the vaccine connect the immunization with sexual activity in young girls. The issue even became political when Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachman claimed that 12-year-old-girls were being harmed by a government mandate for the HPV vaccination, the Atlantic reports.

A recent study by Kaiser Permanente and Emory University published in the journal Pediatrics found that HPV vaccination does not encourage young women to begin sexual activity at an early age, according to the Atlantic.

Approximately 34.8 percent of girls between the age of 13 and 17 received all three doses of the HPV vaccine in 2011, compared to less than one percent of males.

In October 2011, the CDC recommended that the HPV vaccine be used routinely in males as well. In Rhode Island, there has been little to no backlash about the increased HPV vaccination of males.

"There's been a surprisingly muted reaction," Don Dizon, a Brown University oncologist, said, according to NPR. "We tend to believe that girls are chaste and are going to 'save themselves for marriage.' But, you know, sexual activity is something that's almost expected of boys."

A recent study by GlaxoSmithKline points to the cost-effectiveness of the vaccine in males because of the low uptake of the vaccine for females, ObGyn News reports.

"(Vaccinating boys against HPV is cost effective when the immunization rate for girls is low) which it is in the United States," Janet Englund, a consultant for GlaxoSmithKline, said, according to ObGyn News. "Although coverage in females is increasing, we believe that male vaccination would remain cost effective into the foreseeable future."

If the incidence of HPV immunization increases in women, the cost effectiveness of HPV vaccination in males may decrease, according to ObGyn News.