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HPV vaccination now available up to age 45

Go get you one (or three)

by Robin Watkins, CNM, WHNP-BC

ICYMI: The FDA expanded their approval for the HPV vaccine to include people aged 27 to 45. This means that everyone between the ages of 9 and 45 can get vaccinated against HPV. Here’s what you need to know:

Why vaccinate for HPV?

HPV stands for human papillomavirus, a group of more than 150 strains of a common virus that spreads through skin-to-skin contact. For most people, HPV infection does not cause symptoms or health problems and the infection goes away on its own.

However, there are certain strains of HPV that can cause problems, which can sometimes be serious. If you have one of these high-risk strains or if HPV sticks around because you have a weakened immune system (like if you have HIV), it can cause genital warts or potentially lead to some types of cancers, including cancer of the cervix, penis, anus, or the back of the throat.

The good news is that the HPV vaccine can prevent genital warts and decrease your chances of getting cancer.

You get a vaccine, you get a vaccine—everyone gets a vaccine!

In 2006, the FDA approved the first HPV vaccine. It protected against two strains of high-risk HPV that cause the majority of HPV-related cancers, but it was only available for young women up to age 26. Over the years, new HPV vaccines have been developed to protect against more and more strains of HPV. Until this recent update, HPV vaccination was recommended for everyone from ages 9 to 26.

Now everyone ages 9 to 45 can get protection from 9 strains of HPV viruses with the Gardasil 9 HPV vaccination. It’s best to start the HPV vaccine series early, before you have sex or are exposed to an HPV strain. But if you missed getting the vaccines when you were younger (or you started getting the series of vaccinations but didn’t finish), it’s not too late to prevent HPV infections (and decrease your risk of cancer) by getting vaccinated now.

Do I need a vaccine?

If you have already completed the HPV vaccine series, you do not need to get another HPV vaccine. If you are 45 or younger and have not been vaccinated for HPV, or if you started the HPV vaccine series and did not finish it, even if it was years ago, it’s not too late to complete it now.

I have HPV. Should I get the vaccine?

Yes! Even if you know you have or had HPV, you probably haven’t had all the different strains. Getting the HPV vaccine can help protect you from the ones you don’t have.

Getting the HPV vaccine

Currently, Gardasil 9 is the only HPV vaccine available in the United States. It is a series of either 2 or 3 vaccines depending on how old you are when you start the vaccines. People who are 45 or younger who never got vaccinated will need a total of 3 doses. If you started but didn’t finish your series of vaccinations in the past, you may need 1 or 2 more shots depending on how old you were when you started, how long it’s been since you had a dose and how many shots you have already had. Talk to your provider about how to get started on or finish your vaccine series.

Each dose of the HPV vaccine is given as a shot, so not going to lie—you’re going to feel it, but side effects are generally mild and short-lived. The most common reactions are soreness, swelling and redness in the arm where you got the shot.

More questions?

Contact your provider to ask about starting the HPV vaccine series. Need a provider? Check out our Clinic Finder.

Robin Watkins is the Director, Health Care at Power to Decide. Robin is a Midwife and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with experience in sexual and reproductive health care and community health centers. When she is not talking sex, placing IUDs or asking One Key Question, you can find her riding her bike on the streets of DC or eating ice cream for dinner.

read more about: provider perspective, health, hpv, safety

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