Military medical experts are urging that the U.S. Department of Defense require military personnel to get the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, as it does with other vaccines recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

Authors from the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, both in Bethesda, Maryland, as well the Air Force Medical Readiness Agency in Falls Church, Virginia, and Brooke Army Medical Center at Joint Base San Antonio, Texas, strongly urged that the requirement be implemented. They made their case in an article published in Military Medicine.

“Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the U.S. military and accounts for more healthcare visits than the next two most common STIs combined,” the authors state, adding, “Human papillomavirus is preventable with a safe, effective, prophylactic vaccine that has been available since 2006, yet vaccination rates remain low.”

Noting that the vaccine is approved for females and males aged 9 to 45 years for prevention of HPV-related dysplasia and cancers and is ACIP-recommended, the article points out that it is not included on the U.S. military’s mandatory vaccine list.

“Human papillomavirus does not just affect female service members—male service members have a higher reported seropositive rate than their civilian counterparts and can develop oropharyngeal, anal, or penile cancers as sequelae of HPV,” the authors write. “Oropharyngeal cancer, more common in males, is the fastest growing and most prevalent HPV-related cancer in the USA.”

The article also advises that other countries, including Australia and Sweden, have made the vaccine mandatory in some cases and driven down rates of HPV-related diseases, including cancer.

More than half of the 1.3 million service members are in the catch-up vaccination age range of less than age 26 years, the authors note, adding, “Although multiple strategies for improving vaccination rates have been proposed, mandatory vaccination would be in line with current joint service policy that requires all ACIP-recommended vaccines. It is time to update the joint service guidelines and add HPV vaccine to the list of mandatory vaccines.”

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