Background: The decrease in human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine prices may allow upscale already started vaccination programmes but the advantages of different options are unclear.
Methods: Using a mathematical model of HPV16 and 18 transmission and data on vaccination coverage from Italy, we compared 3 options to upscale an already started programme targeting 11-year old girls (coverage 65%): a) coverage improvement (from 65% to 90%); b) addition of 11-year-old boys (coverage 65%); or c) 1-year catch-up of older girls (coverage 50%).
Results: The reduction of cervical HPV16/18 infection as compared to no vaccination (i.e. effectiveness against HPV16/18) increased from 76% to 98% with coverage improvement in girls and to 90% with the addition of boys. With higher coverage in girls, HPV16/18 infection cumulative probability by age 35 decreased from 25% to 8% with a 38% increase in vaccine number. The addition of boys decreased the cumulative probability to 18% with a 100% increase in the number of vaccinees. For any coverage in girls, the number of vaccinees to prevent 1 woman from being infected by HPV16/18 by age 35 was 1.5, whereas it was 2.7 for the addition of boys. Catch-up of older girls only moved forward the vaccination effectiveness by 2-5 years.
Conclusions: Increasing vaccination coverage among girls is the most effective option for decreasing HPV16/18. If not achievable, vaccinating boys is justifiable if vaccine cost has at least halved, because this option would almost double the number of vaccinees.