Since 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recommended the HPV vaccine for children as young as 9 years old, all the way up to adults age 26. Now, it has extended that age range up to age 45.
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The HPV vaccine is designed to protect against the human papilloma virus ― the virus primarily responsible for causing cervical cancer, as well as some other sexually-transmitted cancers.
Why adults should get the HPV vaccine
Ob/Gyn Salena Zanotti, MD, says the new recommendations are designed to provide more protection to more people.
Children are typically vaccinated so they’re protected before they’re sexually active. While the vaccine provides better protection at a younger age, Dr. Zanotti says there’s still some valuable protection for adults receiving it at an older age.
A lot of people aren’t sexually active until later in life, and many people have multiple partners and aren’t monogamous after the age of 26. These individuals still want to get HPV coverage to protect themselves.
HPV is now common in women in their 40s
It’s becoming more common for women who have been HPV-negative their whole life to acquire the virus in their 40s if they have a new partner, Dr. Zanotti says.
HPV is the most prevalent sexually transmitted disease, she notes, and even if a person has only been with someone who’s had one other partner in their life ― it’s still possible to get HPV.
How to decide if you should get the vaccine
The decision whether to get the vaccine is an individual one, Dr. Zanotti says, and one that should be discussed with your healthcare provider.
“If you’re going to be with the same partner for the rest of your life and you’re HPV negative, you probably don’t need it,” she says. “Unfortunately, none of us know exactly what the future’s going to hold for us. So, if things may change in your partner situation ― you may have a new partner who already has HPV ― this vaccine may give you protection.”