The Ideal Age to Get the HPV Vaccine

It's Approved for Kids and Young Adults up to Age 26. What If You're Older?

HPV Vaccinations Back In Spotlight After Perry Joins Presidential Race
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The HPV vaccine, which is designed to protect against infection from a ubiquitous organism known as the human papillomavirus, has become an important part of basic health care for kids and young adults. HPV is a virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact of all types, including vaginal, oral, and anal and is linked to a variety of cancers, including cervical, oral, and anal cancer.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "HPV infection is easily acquired, even with only one sex partner. That is why it is important to get HPV vaccine before any sexual contact takes place. Also, response to the vaccine is better at this age than at older ages."

Currently, the HPV vaccine is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only for people in certain age groups. But what if you're older than the recommended age for the shot? Can you still get it? And will it work? Here's what you should know.

Targeting Tweens and Young Adults

These are the FDA's official guidelines for the HPV vaccine, which is given in three separate doses:

  • "This HPV vaccine is recommended for girls and boys 11 or 12 years of age. It may be given starting at age 9.

This vaccine is recommended for the following people who have not completed the 3-dose series

  • Females 13 through 26 years of age
  • Males 13 through 21 years of age

This vaccine may be given to men 22 through 26 years of age who have not completed the 3-dose series.

It is recommended for men through age 26 who have sex with men or whose immune system is weakened because of HIV infection, other illness, or medications."

One reason the HPV vaccine is age-limited is that the virus is so common HPV: By the time most people are 26, they probably will have been exposed to the types of HPV covered by the HPV jab.

Initially, the vaccine was also age-limited because scientists hadn't spent as much time testing the efficacy of the HPV in older people to see if it worked well enough for approval. That research is ongoing, and some recent studies have shown positive vaccination effects in older women.

As for men, they do get HPV-related diseases but less frequently. Scientists are still debating whether vaccinating men is cost effective. That said, vaccinating young men helps protect any women they might have sex with. Additionally, the HPV vaccine has been approved for young men for the prevention of genital warts.

Getting The HPV Vaccine If You're Older

If you're a man or woman over 26 and would like to get the HPV vaccine, it won't be impossible but you'll probably have to do a bit of legwork to find a doctor willing to give it to you. One place to start is your local Planned Parenthood clinic but call first: Policy varies state-by-state and among individual clinics.  the experience of getting the HPV jab won't be the same as that of a younger person. In all probability, the inoculation cost (which is substantial) is going to come out of your pocket.

Your physician may be willing to give you the HPV vaccine, but because you're over the approved age, it's likely your insurance will not cover the shot, which costs approximately $215 per shot, or about $650 for the three-shot series—on top of the what your doctor charges for the office visit.

And as already noted, even if you get the vaccine it may not be as effective for you as for a younger person. It's most likely to be of benefit if you've had no or very few sex partners.Even so, part of being an adult is choosing how you balance your risks, even if it means covering the HPV vaccine cost, for yourself.