Can I Get the HPV Vaccine If I'm Not a 9- to 26-Year-Old Woman?

HPV Vaccinations Back In Spotlight After Perry Joins Presidential Race
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What Age Can You Get The HPV Vaccine?

Right now the HPV vaccine is only approved for boys and girls between the ages of 9 and 26 years. However, it is sometimes possible to get the HPV jab if you're over 26.Be warned though, if you do, it's less likely to be covered by insurance. It's also less likely to be effective.

Why Is The HPV Vaccine Only Recommended to Age 26?

One of the main reasons why the HPV vaccine is age-limited is how common HPV is.

By the time most people are 26, they will probably have already been exposed to the types of HPV covered by the HPV jab. Initially, the vaccine was also age-limited because scientists hadn't spent as much time testing the efficacy of the HPV in older people to see if it worked well enough for approval. That additional research was eventually performed; however. The result? In April 2011 the FDA denied Merck's expedited application to expand labeling to include women over the age of 26. However, research is ongoing, and some more recent studies have shown positive vaccination effects in older women. 

As for men, although they do get HPV-related diseases, they are less frequent. Scientists are still debating whether vaccinating men is cost effective. That having been said, vaccinating young men also helps protect any young women they might have sex with. Additionally, the HPV vaccine has been approved for young men for the prevention of genital warts.

Getting The HPV Vaccine If You're Over 26... or Over 40

There are many older women, and some older men who would like to get the HPV vaccine right now. Is it possible? The answer is: maybe. Some doctors are willing to provide the vaccine, but others aren't. Even if you can get the HPV vaccine, however, the experience of getting the HPV jab won't be the same as that of a younger person.

In all probability, the inoculation cost (which is substantial) is going to come out of your pocket.

How do you find a clinic that will vaccinate you, when you're over age? You'll need to do a lot of legwork. Some (but not all) Planned Parenthood clinics will give the HPV vaccine to women over the age of 26. Policy varies both state by state and clinic by clinic. Call first, and be prepared to have them change their mind when you show up in their office... it happened to me.

Your physician may also be willing to give you the HPV vaccine in his or her office, but, because you are over the approved age, the cost will probably not be covered by insurance. It's not cheap. The HPV vaccine is approximately $215 per shot, about $650 for the three shot series. That does not include any costs for the three visits.

My experience has been that if you're willing to do the legwork, and possibly a bit of traveling, most people who really want the HPV vaccine can find someone who will vaccinate them. Whether the vaccine will do you any good, well, that's another matter entirely. It's most likely to be of benefit for people who have had a low number of sex partners. Still, other people can still make a rational choice to get vaccinated.

Part of being an adult is choosing how you balance your risks, even if t means covering the HPV vaccine cost, for yourself.

A Word from Verywell

I have reports from several users that their insurance companies have fully covered their HPV vaccination expenses, even though they were outside the recommended age-range for the HPV vaccine. Therefore, it is definitely a good idea to have your doctor check with your insurance company to see if HPV vaccination will be covered. You may be able to save yourself a substantial amount of money. 

Sources:

American Association for Cancer Research. HPV vaccine less effective in "older" women. Cancer Discov. 2014 Apr;4(4):OF6. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-NB2014-018.

Skinner SR, Szarewski A, Romanowski B, Garland SM, Lazcano-Ponce E, Salmerón J, Del Rosario-Raymundo MR, Verheijen RH, Quek SC, da Silva DP, Kitchener H, Fong KL, Bouchard C, Money DM, Ilancheran A, Cruickshank ME, Levin MJ, Chatterjee A, Stapleton JT, Martens M, Quint W, David MP, Meric D, Hardt K, Descamps D, Geeraerts B, Struyf F, Dubin G; VIVIANE Study Group. Efficacy, safety, and immunogenicity of the human papillomavirus 16/18 AS04-adjuvanted vaccine in women older than 25 years: 4-year interim follow-up of the phase 3, double-blind, randomised controlled VIVIANE study. Lancet. 2014 Dec 20;384(9961):2213-27. doi:  10.1016/S0140-6736(14)60920-X.

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