The Ideal Age to Get the HPV Vaccine

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The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine has become an essential part of basic preventive healthcare for preteens, teenagers, and young adults. It prevents against nine strains of HPV, a virus that can be transmitted through sexual contact of all types, including vaginal, oral, and anal sex.

HPV can cause genital warts and, in some people, cervical, throat, anal, or other cancers.

A young woman receiving an HPV vaccination
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Gardasil-9 is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States. Though it is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in children and adults ages 9 through 45, the ideal window for vaccination is narrower.

Two major public health bodies—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Cancer Society (ACS)—offer specific recommendations for those who are 9 to 26 and those who are 27 to 45.

The HPV vaccine can prevent you from getting infected. It does not alter the course of the disease in people who have already been infected.

Recommendations for Adolescents

Epidemiological data suggest that up to 80% of people will get an HPV infection at some point in their life. Given this, the CDC recommends HPV vaccination for all children ages 11 to 12. The vaccine can be given as early as age 9.

Two shots of the vaccine, administered six to 12 months apart, are needed. Those who get the second dose less than five months after the first will need a third dose. Anyone who gets the vaccine after the age of 14 would also need three doses.

ACS guidelines differ slightly. The ACS panel recommends vaccination for children 9 to 10 based on the expectation that doing so will help achieve higher on-time vaccination rates and reduce the rate of HPV-associated cancers.

Recommendations for Young Adults

The CDC also recommends a three-dose series of the HPV vaccine for certain people who have not completed the early two-dose series. These include:

In addition, the HPV vaccine is recommended for young adults up to age 26 who are immunocompromised, such as those living with HIV.

Although men get HPV-associated diseases less often than women, vaccination is still recommended. This is especially true for MSM, who are up to 38 times more likely to get anal cancer compared to the general population; that jumps to 130 times more likely if they have HIV.

Recommendations for People Over 26

Although the HPV vaccine is approved for people up to 45, the CDC only offers a provisional recommendation for vaccination of women and men over 26.

According to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), HPV vaccination is less likely to offer benefit at this point in life given that most adults over 26 will already have been infected with HPV.

For this reason, clinicians can administer the vaccine to patients over 26 but should advise them of the limitations of vaccination. People who have had no or very few sexual partners stand the best chance of reaping the benefits of vaccination.

In contrast to the CDC recommendations, the ACS guidelines do not encourage HPV vaccination after 26, as it is unlikely to provide protection from cancer.

In addition, there has been a global shortage of HPV vaccine that is expected to continue for several years. Offering the vaccine to those who are most likely to benefit from it is a strategic way to ensure that enough is available moving forward.

HPV Doctor Discussion Guide

Get our printable guide for your next healthcare provider's appointment to help you ask the right questions.

Doctor Discussion Guide Woman

A Word From Verywell

HPV vaccination is an important part of a cancer prevention plan. According to the CDC, HPV infection accounts for nearly 36,000 cancer diagnoses each year, of which 33,000 may be prevented if current HPV vaccination guidelines are followed.

If you think you are at high risk of HPV but fall outside of the recommended age group for vaccination, speak with your healthcare provider to see if Gardasil-9 is appropriate for you.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV): HPV vaccine schedule and dosing.

  3. Colón-López V, Shiels MS, Machin M, et al. Anal cancer risk among people with HIV infection in the United States. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Jan 1;36(1):68–75. doi:10.1200/JCO.2017.74.9291

  4. Meites E, Szilagyi PG, Chesson HW, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination for adults: Updated recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. MMWR. 2019 Aug 16;68932:698-702. doi:10.15585/mmwr.mm6832a3

  5. Saslow D, Andrews KS, Manassaram-Baptiste D, et al. Human papillomavirus vaccination 2020 guideline update: American Cancer Society guideline adaptation. CA Cancer J Clin. 2020 Jul 8;70(4):281-2. doi:10.3322/caac.21616

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Human papillomavirus (HPV): Reasons to get vaccinated.

By Elizabeth Boskey, PhD
Elizabeth Boskey, PhD, MPH, CHES, is a social worker, adjunct lecturer, and expert writer in the field of sexually transmitted diseases.