Story by: Sara Thompson on January 14, 2021
Over the age of 26? You still may be able to get the HPV vaccine.
The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). HPV is not the same as HIV (or human immunodeficiency virus) and HSV (herpes simplex virus). Seventy-nine million Americans, most in their late teens and early 20s, are infected with HPV. There are many different types of HPV. Some types can cause health issues including genital warts and some types of cancer. Typically, the body’s immune system fights off the virus, sometimes after a few years. But some people develop a persistent infection. There are vaccines that can stop these health concerns from happening.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends routine vaccination for children starting at 11 or 12 years old, when the vaccine is most protective. Vaccination is also recommended through age 26 if the person was not vaccinated previously.
Some adults ages 27 through 45 years may decide to get the HPV vaccine based on discussion with their doctor. HPV vaccination of people in this age range provides less benefit for several reasons, including that more people in this age range already have been exposed to HPV. Getting vaccinated later in life won’t cure HPV if you already have it. Vaccination will protect against other strains, including the high-risk forms that can cause cancers, for example.
Talk to your doctor if your life circumstances have changed. Most sexually active adults already have been exposed to HPV, although not necessarily all of the HPV types targeted by vaccination. Having a new sex partner is a risk factor for getting a new HPV infection. People who are in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship are not likely to get a new HPV infection.
There are no noted sided effects from the HPV vaccine, other than some temporary pain and redness at the injection site.
Pregnant women are not eligible for the HPV vaccine.
In some cases, the cost might be a barrier. Some insurances don’t cover the HPV vaccine after age 26, so you may be responsible for paying out of pocket. Check with your insurance plan to see if it covers the HPV vaccine for people over the age of 26.
Talk to your primary care doctor or OB/GYN to see if an HPV vaccine is right for you.
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