HPV Vaccine Now for All Adults Up to 45 Years Old
by Lisa Larkin, MD, FACP, NCMP, IF
Guidelines for a vaccine that protects against certain cancers have just been expanded to include all men and women up to age 45.
Gardasil 9 helps prevent the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which the CDC estimates infects nearly 14 million Americans each year. The vaccine has been heavily promoted for teens and young adults (ages 9 – 27) since it was first approved in 2006 with the goal of vaccinating before one becomes sexually active. However, new data suggests that the vaccine is effective in preventing new infections from occurring, and so it is valuable even for adults who are already sexually active, especially those with multiple partners or new partners.
The CDC says HPV infections are “so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives.” There are numerous types of HPV, and the vaccine is approved for 9 of the current strains, providing the potential to prevent more than 90% of HPV-related cancers. The CDC suggests that about 12,000 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year, and about 4,000 women die from cervical cancer caused by HPV viruses. The HPV virus is also associated with other cancers, including penile cancer in men, and throat cancer.
This latest approval is based on a study of 3200 women aged between 27 – 45 who were followed for an average of 3.5 years after receiving the vaccine. Gardasil was 88% effective in preventing the combined endpoint of persistent infection, genital warts, vulvar, vaginal and cervical precancerous lesions and cervical cancer related to HPV types covered by the vaccine. Effectiveness of the vaccine in men is inferred from the data from the women’s study as well as the efficacy data in younger men.
Gardasil is considered very safe, with the most commonly reported adverse events being pain at the injection site, swelling, redness and headache. It is estimated that nearly half of adolescents in the US are up-to-date in their vaccinations.
Patients 9 – 27 require two injections over six months; patients older than 27 require three in the same time period.