Both the prophylactic human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines, Gardasil® and Cervarix®, are licensed for the prevention of cervical cancer in females, and Gardasil is also licensed for the prevention of genital warts and anal cancer in both males and females. This review focuses on the uptake of these vaccines in adolescent males and females in the USA and the barriers associated with vaccine initiation and completion. In the USA in 2009, approximately 44.3% of adolescent females aged 13-17 years had received at least one dose of the HPV vaccine, but only 26.7% had received all three doses. In general, the Northeast and Midwest regions of the USA have the highest rates of HPV vaccine initiation in adolescent females, while the Southeast has the lowest rates of vaccine initiation. Uptake of the first dose of the HPV vaccine in adolescent females did not vary by race/ethnicity; however, completion of all three doses is lower among African Americans (23.1%) and Latinos (23.4%) compared with Caucasians (29.3%). At present, vaccination rates among adolescent females are lower than expected, and thus vaccine models suggest that it is more cost-effective to vaccinate both adolescent males and females. Current guidelines for HPV vaccination in adolescent males is recommended only for "permissive use," which leaves this population out of routine vaccination for HPV. The uptake of the vaccine is challenged by the high cost, feasibility, and logistics of three-dose deliveries. The biggest impact on acceptability of the vaccine is by adolescents, physicians, parents, and the community. Future efforts need to focus on HPV vaccine education among adolescents and decreasing the barriers associated with poor vaccine uptake and completion in adolescents before their sexual debut, but Papanicolau screening should remain routine among adults and those already infected until a therapeutic vaccine can be developed.