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Exploring the Cost-Effectiveness of HPV Vaccination in the United States

Exploring the Cost-Effectiveness of HPV Vaccination in the US

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is a widespread virus with significant health ramifications, including cervical and other anogenital cancers, genital warts, and other adverse health outcomes. In recent years, the development and approval of HPV vaccines have offered a new opportunity to combat these health issues. In this article, we will explore the cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination in the US, taking into account various factors such as vaccine efficacy, duration of protection, and the impact of herd immunity. We will also discuss the potential benefits of vaccination, including the prevention of cervical and other cancers, as well as the reduction in HPV-related health care costs.

HPV Vaccination Overview

The development of HPV vaccines has been a significant scientific achievement, with the potential to greatly reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with HPV-related health outcomes. In 2006, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the quadrivalent (HPV 6, 11, 16, 18) vaccine Gardasil, manufactured by Merck & Co., Inc., for use in girls and women aged 9-26 years. This vaccine has demonstrated almost 100% efficacy when given to young women before sexual exposure, offering protection against HPV types 16 and 18, which are responsible for approximately 70% of cervical cancer cases, as well as types 6 and 11, which cause over 90% of cases of anogenital warts.

The US Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has recommended routine HPV vaccination for girls aged 11-12 years, with catch-up vaccination recommended for girls and young women aged 13-26 years who have not previously received the vaccine or completed the full vaccine series. The vaccine series typically consists of three doses administered before the age of 13.

Cost-Effectiveness of HPV Vaccination

Several studies have been conducted to estimate the potential cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination in the United States, in terms of the cost per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) saved. These studies have employed various modeling techniques, including Markov models, decision models, dynamic transmission models, and incidence-based models. The results of these studies have generally indicated that HPV vaccination, when added to existing cervical cancer screening practices, is a cost-effective intervention.

Base-Case Scenario

Using base-case parameter values, the estimated cost per QALY gained by adding vaccination of 12-year-old girls to existing cervical cancer screening ranged from $3,906 to $14,723. This range depends on factors such as the type of model applied (cohort vs. population), whether herd immunity effects were assumed, the types of HPV targeted by the vaccine (bivalent vs. quadrivalent), and whether the benefits of preventing other cancers in addition to cervical cancer were included.

Sensitivity Analyses

Sensitivity analyses have been conducted to examine how changes in key parameter values influence the estimated cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination. Factors that have been varied in these analyses include the cost of the vaccine series, vaccine efficacy, the cost per case of all HPV-related health outcomes, the discount rate, the time horizon over which vaccination costs and benefits were assumed to accrue, the incidence rates of health outcomes, and the percentage of each health outcome attributable to HPV vaccine types.

The results of these sensitivity analyses have shown that the estimated cost per QALY gained by HPV vaccination is relatively robust to changes in most parameter values. However, the choice of discount rate and time horizon can have a substantial influence on the estimated cost-effectiveness of vaccination. Higher discount rates and shorter time horizons result in less favorable cost-effectiveness estimates, as the costs of vaccination are incurred immediately, while the full benefits of vaccination are not realized for many years.

Herd Immunity and Additional Benefits

The potential benefits of herd immunity, whereby vaccination of a portion of the population provides indirect protection to unvaccinated individuals through reduced transmission of the virus, have also been considered in cost-effectiveness analyses. Inclusion of herd immunity effects can improve the estimated cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination, although the magnitude of this improvement depends on the assumptions made about the degree of herd immunity achieved.

In addition to the prevention of cervical cancer, HPV vaccination can also provide benefits through the prevention of other cancers, such as anal, vaginal, vulvar, and selected oropharyngeal cancers. Inclusion of these additional benefits in cost-effectiveness analyses can result in more favorable estimates of the cost per QALY gained by vaccination.

Limitations and Future Research

While the cost-effectiveness analyses of HPV vaccination provide valuable information for policymakers, there are several limitations and areas for future research. Firstly, the models used in these analyses often require numerous assumptions about factors such as the natural history of HPV infection, the effectiveness of cervical cancer screening, and the transmission dynamics of the virus. More data on these factors, as well as data on the long-term duration of vaccine protection, could help to refine these models and improve the accuracy of cost-effectiveness estimates.

Secondly, the cost-effectiveness of HPV vaccination may change over time as cervical cancer screening practices evolve, and as new vaccines and vaccination strategies are developed. For example, the potential cost-effectiveness of vaccinating boys and men, or of using a two-dose vaccine schedule, has not been extensively explored in the existing literature. Further research on these topics could help to inform the development of optimal HPV vaccination strategies.

Finally, it is important to consider the broader context of HPV vaccination, including the potential impact on health inequities and the acceptability of vaccination among various population groups. Ensuring equitable access to HPV vaccination and addressing potential barriers to vaccine uptake will be crucial in maximizing the public health benefits of this important intervention.


The cost-effectiveness analyses of HPV vaccination in the United States provide strong evidence that vaccination of 12-year-old girls, when added to existing cervical cancer screening practices, is a cost-effective intervention for the prevention of HPV-related health outcomes. While the estimated cost per QALY gained by vaccination is subject to some uncertainty and may vary depending on factors such as the discount rate and time horizon, the overall evidence supports the continued implementation and expansion of HPV vaccination programs in the United States. Further research on the long-term duration of vaccine protection, the cost-effectiveness of alternative vaccination strategies, and the potential impact on health inequalities will be essential in informing the development of optimal HPV vaccination policies.


What is HPV vaccination, and why is it important in the United States?

HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination is a highly effective way to prevent HPV-related cancers and other diseases, such as genital warts. In the United States, HPV vaccination is recommended for both boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 26, and is considered a critical public health intervention to reduce the burden of HPV-related disease.

How cost effective is HPV vaccination in the United States?

Recent studies have shown that HPV vaccination is highly cost effective in the United States, with a net cost savings over the lifetime of those vaccinated. This is due in part to the significant reduction in HPV-related disease and associated healthcare costs.

What are some of the barriers to HPV vaccination uptake in the United States?

Despite the known benefits of HPV vaccination, uptake in the United States remains suboptimal. Barriers to uptake include lack of knowledge and awareness about the vaccine, concerns about safety and side effects, and cost and access issues, particularly among underserved populations.

How can healthcare providers improve HPV vaccination rates in the United States?

Healthcare providers can play an important role in improving HPV vaccination rates by providing accurate information about the vaccine, addressing concerns and misconceptions, and incorporating vaccine promotion into routine clinical practice. Additionally, policies and programs that increase access to the vaccine can help improve vaccination rates among underserved populations.

What is the potential impact of increasing HPV vaccination rates in the United States?

Increasing HPV vaccination rates in the United States has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of HPV-related cancers and other diseases, particularly among populations at highest risk. This has important implications for reducing healthcare costs and improving health outcomes. By preventing HPV-related disease, HPV vaccination is a critical public health intervention with potential benefits that extend well beyond individual health.