Expanded Reach for HPV Vaccine

Expanded Reach for HPV Vaccine

A vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV) can prevent six types of cancer if given at the right time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Updated recommendations in the past few years have expanded the reach of the vaccine, which can prevent cancers of the cervix, anus, penis, vulva, vagina, and throat. Here’s what you need to know about the HPV vaccine, according to the American Cancer Society and the CDC: 

  • Children should get the HPV vaccine starting at age 9. 
  • While vaccination at ages 9 to 12 is best, people can get vaccinated up to age 26. 
  • People age 27 to 45 may get the vaccine if they haven’t received it before, but they should talk to their doctor to see if it’s right for them.
  • Those age 15 and older need three doses of the vaccine instead of two.

New research shows the HPV vaccine can help clear some cervical cells that are potentially pre-cancerous, says Julia Simon, MD, an obstetrician-gynecologist at UChicago Medicine. “Some patients who have abnormal pap smears are choosing to get [the vaccine] because of this data,” she says. 

HPV vaccination rates among teens ages 13 to 17 have been slowly rising. But while 51% of teens had received all recommended doses in 2018, the number falls short of the CDC’s goal of 80%.

Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2021 print issue.