Why You Must Be 26 or Younger to Get the HPV Vaccine

It’s amazing that we have a cancer vaccine. Since cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), a shot that protects you from the virus drastically reduces the chances that you will ever develop cervical cancer or cancer of the penis, anus, or throat. But in the US, you can only get it if you are young enough.

Ideally, we would all get it long before we are sexually active, which is why the CDC recommends it for ages 11 or 12. (It’s freaks some parents out , as if eleven-year-olds would take this as permission to go have sex on the next day. Scientists actually looked into the matter and found that no, the HPV vaccine does not turn children into juvenile sex addicts .)

This explains the lower limit of the recommended age range, but why then does it peak at 26? If you’re in your 30s and want to protect yourself (and your future partners) from cervical and other HPV cancers, you’re out of luck. The vaccine is approved for use only in women under the age of 26 and in low-risk men under the age of 21. you have immune system problems that make you more susceptible to infections, the maximum age for you is 26 years.)

Why 26? I asked Anna Giuliano , who led trials of the HPV vaccine, to see how well it protects people from the virus. She explains that the initial trials, which showed the vaccine to be safe and effective, only included people under the age of 26. The FDA decided to only approve her for the same age, although more recent studies have shown that she still works at least at the age of 45. (The European Medicines Agency made a different decision and has since approved a vaccine for all ages.)

However, approval is not everything. The CDC ‘s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices makes recommendations on who should get vaccinated and when. They did some calculations and found that vaccine administration was only cost-effective for young people. By the age of 26, you most likely have already contracted at least several types of HPV (and there are dozens of them). The vaccine costs money and time, but does not provide much benefit. From this point of view, there is no point in spending resources on vaccinating people over the age of 21 or 26. However, this decision is subject to change; the calculations depend on factors such as the number of people infected in the population. Giuliano believes that in the future, the maximum age for men could be increased to 26 years.

Because of these decisions, the use of the vaccine in the elderly is considered off-label. Which is perfectly normal and legal! Many drugs are prescribed every day that are not indicated for the purpose. But when it comes to vaccines, insurance usually doesn’t pay for the shot that isn’t recommended for you.

If you still want to shoot …

The fact that many people over the age of 26 have encountered the virus does not mean that everyone has encountered every type of virus. Giuliano notes that the newest version of the vaccine protects against the highest-risk nine types of HPV, so even if you are already infected with one or two types, you can still be protected from the others. So, yes, you could benefit from getting the shot even if you are over 26 years old.

But since it’s not recommended for your age group, insurance probably won’t pay for it. That means you’re hooked for $ 240 a serving, according to Planned Parenthood. (Prices vary, so check with your doctor or clinic.) Adults need three doses over six months. This is another reason why you can do it young: an active immune system in children means that children 14 and younger only need two shots.

Whether you get vaccinated or not, you can reduce your risk of contracting HPV or various sexually transmitted diseases by practicing safer sex. This means condoms and / or dental pads . If you have a cervix, it is important to get regular screening for cervical cancer so that the doctor can see abnormal cells before they develop into cancer. (This is what your Pap smear is for, with or without an HPV test.)


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