Am I Too Old to Get the HPV Vaccine?

When it comes to the HPV vaccine, adults often assume they aren’t eligible to get immunized. However, it’s actually possible to receive the HPV vaccine through age 45. While it may help to prevent HPV infection, you shouldn’t expect the same level of protection if you receive the HPV shot as an adult.

HPV Vaccine Age Limit

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the HPV vaccine for men through age 21 and women through age 26. The CDC also recommends the HPV shot for unvaccinated individuals who fall into one of the following categories:

  • Young men who have sex with men through age 26 (including young men who identify as gay or bisexual)
  • Young adults who are transgender through age 26
  • Young adults with certain immunocompromising conditions (such as HIV) through age 26

If you’ve passed these age limits, you might be wondering if it is too late to get the HPV vaccine. According to FDA guidelines updated in October 2018, the HPV shot for men and women may be administered up to age 45. This applies specifically to Gardasil 9, which is the only HPV vaccine available for use in the United States.

HPV Vaccine Schedule for Adults

The HPV vaccine for adults is administered as three doses over the course of six months. The following schedule applies to anyone receiving the HPV vaccine over the age of 14:

  • First shot: Any time up to the accepted age limit
  • Second shot: Two months after the first shot
  • Third shot: Six months after the first shot

It’s important to stick to this schedule in order to make the vaccine as effective as possible. However, if you do experience a longer delay than recommended between shots, you don’t need to start over. Get the next shot even if the time between doses is longer than recommended.

HPV Vaccine Effectiveness

The recommended HPV shot age is 11 or 12. If kids get all the recommended doses before they become sexually active, the HPV vaccine can reduce the risk of getting HPV-related cancers by up to 99%.

Getting the vaccine as an adult can be beneficial, but it won’t provide the same level of protection if you’re already sexually active. The HPV vaccine cannot protect against any strains of the virus that you’ve already been exposed to. In addition, it cannot cure HPV infections that have already occurred or treat any HPV-related health problems.

Being vaccinated for HPV as an adult is a good idea, especially if you fall within the recommended age range. However, it’s still important to practice safe sex and get regular health screenings even if you’ve received the HPV shot.

Sources
  1. Answering Parents’ Questions about HPV Vaccine: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.
  2. HPV and Men – Fact Sheet: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016.
  3. FDA approves expanded use of Gardasil 9 to include individuals 27 through 45 years old: U.S. Food & Drug Administration, 2018.
  4. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines: National Cancer Institute, 2018.
  5. Adults: Gardasil 9.
  6. Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccination: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 2017.