By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC and Ambassador, American Cancer Society Mission: HPV Cancer Free
As some of you may have heard, a three dose regimen of the HPV vaccine has been approved by the FDA for adults from 27-45 years of age in October 2018. Prior to this, the vaccine in a two dose regimen was approved for children from ages 9-14 and a three dose regimen for those from age 15 through 26. So what does this mean? Should every adult under the age of 45 who has not had the HPV vaccine run out and get it?
The FDA approval was based on a 3.5 year study of 3200 women ages 27-45. The study showed the vaccine was 88 percent effective in the prevention of HPV infection and the various disease states related to the virus such as genital warts and precancerous cervical lesions. But FDA approval is a far cry from a public policy or medical professional recommendation.
According to the CDC, every year about 14 million Americans become infected with HPV; about 12,000 women are diagnosed with, and about 4,000 women die from, cervical cancer caused by certain HPV viruses. Additionally, we know HPV viruses are related to several other forms of cancer affecting men and women. Thus, a vaccine that can prevent an infection that could someday lead to a cancer is a good thing, but it may not be a necessity for every adult over the age of 26.
We await the recommendations for this vaccine from the Centers for Disease Control, the American Cancer Society and the United States Preventative Services Task Force. At this time, any decision regarding the use of this vaccine in the adult population should begin with a discussion with your family physician. Some people may find it would be prudent, others may find it unnecessary. In all cases, it may not yet be covered by insurance and will be an out-of-pocket expense. We recommend in this case, a conversation with your health care provider.