Despite HPV cervical cancer vaccine is one of the most controversial immunisation practice ever since vaccination was discovered by Edward Jenner in the late 18th century —
The U.S. CDC reported increasing HPV vaccination rate among Americans, with 60% of parents are choosing to get the vaccine for their child.
So what is the HPV vaccine age range and cut off limit?
Can adults over 30, 40, and 50 years old still get HPV vaccination shots – or it’s too late?
How Does HPV Vaccine and Cervical Cancer Vaccine Work?
- Cervical / Vulvar / Vaginal / Anal cancers.
- Precancerous cervical / vulvar / vaginal / anal lesions.
- Genital warts.
These vaccines provide effective protection against new HPV infections. However, they are not effective at treating established HPV infections or disease caused by HPV, says the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
As such, HPV vaccination is recommended during childhood or adolescence, with HPV vaccine is most effective among individuals without prior sexual activity with exposure to HPV.
According to WebMD:
The HPV vaccine contains no viruses and is not made from human papillomavirus. The active ingredients in the HPV vaccine are proteins that are similar to those found in the Human Papillomavirus. Genetically modified bacteria produce the proteins, which are then purified and mixed into a sterile, water-based solution.
After the HPV vaccine shot is given, the body makes antibodies in response to the protein and clear it from the body. If a person is then exposed to the real virus, the same antibodies can prevent HPV from entering the body cells to cause an infection.
Research shows the vaccine works best when given at a younger age, because preteens create more antibodies to the vaccine (than those aged in their late teens) for better protection if they are exposed to HPV in the future.
Check out the excellent video below to understand more on how does HPV vaccine work, and the body’s immune reaction after receive each dose of HPV vaccination.
Recommended Read: How Do You Get HPV Virus? Some Transmission Routes are Shocking.
What is the HPV Vaccine Age Limit – Same Across All Countries?
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that, as of 31 March 2017, globally 71 countries (37%) had introduced HPV vaccine in their national immunization program for girls, and 11 countries (6%) also for boys.
While the WHO recommends HPV vaccination for females aged between 9 and 18 years old, the recommended HPV vaccine age range and cut off limit vary among different countries, with examples as shown below.
|Country||HPV Vaccine Age For Females||HPV Vaccine Age For Males||Reference Sources and Recommended Schedule / Doses|
|United States||9 -26 years||9 -26 years||US Center of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)|
|United Kingdom||12 -18 years||Boys/Mens are not included in HPV vaccination scheme||NHS UK|
|Canada||9 -26 years||9 -26 years||Government of Canada and NACI|
|Australia||9 -18 years||9 -18 years||Australian Government Department of Health - Immunise Australia Program|
|Singapore||9 -26 years||HPV vaccination for boys is not included in the NCIS||HealthHub - Ministry of Health Singapore|
|New Zealand||9 -26 years||9 -26 years||New Zealand Ministry of Health|
|Japan||HPV vaccination suspended in Japan since June 2013||MedScape and JapanTimes|
The U.S. CDC has recommended HPV vaccination for 11 and 12 year-old girls, as well as for girls and women age 13 through 26 years of age who have not yet been vaccinated or completed the vaccine series. HPV vaccine can also be given to girls starting at age 9 years.
Such recommended guidelines are in accordance with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that approved HPV vaccines Gardasil / Gardasil-9 for females and males 9 through 26 years of age.
United States and many countries recommend getting the HPV vaccine through the age limit of 26 years old, nonetheless there are different guidelines and practices in certain countries, such as:
- The United Kingdom HPV vaccination programme by NHS recommends the vaccine for all girls from the age of 12 years up to age of 18.
- Australian Immunisation Handbook, outlined by the Australian Government Department of Health, recommends HPV vaccination for children and adolescents aged 9 to 18 years old – just as the recommendation of World Health Organisation (WHO).
- Japan’s Vaccine Adverse Reactions Review Committee has suspended recommendation/usage of HPV vaccine in June 2013 due to concerns of adverse effects, and has not reinstated it.
Related Read: The 7 Alarming HPV Vaccine Controversies That Can Make You Rethink
While the recommended HPV vaccination schedule / doses vary among different countries and type of HPV vaccine (eg. Gardasil or Cervarix) authorized for use, the routine cervical cancer jab is usually:
- recommended for girls aged between 9 and 13.
- administered in doses of 2 shots or 3 shots, to be given over the course of 6 to 24 months.
When you are older than the recommended HPV vaccination age range —
You are probably hesitating whether does it make sense to ask for vaccine to prevent HPV / cancer.
You reckon the vaccine could still do you some good, however you might be wondering:
“Can I get the HPV vaccine if I am older than age limit (eg. after 18 or 26 years old)?”
“Is HPV vaccine effective after exposure and sexually active?”
HPV Vaccine For Adults over 30 and 40 Years Old: Worth it or Too Late?
Let’s first watch the brief video below which shows Paul A. Offit MD discussed the use of HPV vaccine in those older than 13 years of age and in young adults.
Want to know the bottom line?
HPV vaccine for adults over 30 and 40 years old can still be beneficial, because it is unlikely that you would have been infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines.
We look at the supporting evidences below alongside what the medical experts say:
#1: Even Sexually Active Adult CAN Still Benefit from HPV Vaccination
Yes, you see it right.
Firstly, if you are an older person with monogamous relationship or with few sex partners, you have a lower chance of having been exposed to HPV already, and thus getting the HPV vaccines shot can still protect you against future infection.
While there are much debates on HPV vaccination’s effectiveness in adults older than age 26, that more studies are required before the HPV vaccines can be recommended for women and men after the common age limit of 26 –
Gynecologic Oncology Journal published the following findings of Spanish researchers who studied HPV vaccination against cervical cancer in women aged above 25 years old:
- Preliminary data with the quadrivalent vaccine demonstrated evidence of safety, immunogenicity and high-level efficacy in women 24 to 45 years of age.
- Clinical trial data show the HPV-16/18 AS04-adjuvanted vaccine is safe and immunogenic in women up to the age of 55 years.
- Sexually active women over the age of 25 can consider HPV vaccination and will have the potential to benefit from vaccination.
CDC also echoed that HPV vaccination can still be beneficial even to sexually active adults:
- Ideally females should get the vaccine before they become sexually active and exposed to HPV.
- Females who are sexually active may also benefit from vaccination, but they may get less benefit. This is because they may have already been exposed to one or more of the HPV types targeted by the vaccines.
- However, few sexually active young women are infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines, so most young women could still get protection by getting vaccinated.
Related Read: How Long Does HPV Last in Males and Females?
The Canadian Cancer Society further pointed out that HPV vaccination may potentially help men to prevent throat cancer and oral cancer, because about 90% of HPV-induced mouth and throat cancers are caused by high-risk HPV-16 strain that is protected by the vaccine.
Though clinical studies on this are currently limited, the National Cancer Institute revealed promising research results on 2600 young Americans that show oral HPV infection is 88% lower in people who received minimum one dose of an HPV vaccine than in young adults who were not vaccinated.
#2: Statistics Show You are Unlikely to be Infected with All HPV Types Prevented by Vaccines
So does HPV vaccine help if already infected?
The U.S. National Center for Health Statistics has published the following data on HPV infection rate among adults aged 18–59:
- Any genital HPV prevalence was 42.5% in the total population (with 39.9% among women and 45.2% among men).
- High-risk genital HPV prevalence was 22.7% in the total population (with 20.4% among women and 25.1% among men).
For people with at least 1 opposite sex partner, the U.S. CDC estimated:
- The average lifetime probability of acquiring HPV is 91.3% for men and 84.6% for women.
- More than 80% of men and women acquire HPV by age 45 years.
The HPV statistics above, combined with the fact that over 40 different HPV strains are sexually transmitted, mean you are unlikely to be infected with all HPV strains prevented by vaccines.
Even if you have contracted certain HPV strain(s) in the past without knowing it, you could still be at risk of contracting a different high-risk HPV type that may cause you cancer.
This is a risk that can be mitigated with HPV vaccines that protect against 2, 4, or 9 HPV strains (as shown below) — in which you will likely still benefit from the vaccine protection against a few of the other HPV sub-types that you have not yet been exposed.
Engage your health service provider for HPV tests to know for certain if you are already exposed to the HPV strains protected by vaccines. You can still get the HPV vaccination if you already have HPV, just that it won’t be effective against the HPV strain that you are already infected with.
More: At-Home STD Tests, 100% Lab-Certified: Order Online for STD / HPV Tests at Home
|Vaccine Name||Protects Against||Approved in|
|Gardasil||4 HPV types (i.e. Type-6, 11, 16, and 18)||USA, UK, Canada, Australia.|
|Gardasil 9||9 HPV types (i.e. Type-6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58)||USA|
|Cervarix||2 HPV types (i.e. Type-16 and 18)||Canada, Australia.|
#3: Re-Vaccination in Adulthood is Recommended If Your Vaccination Schedule Was Not Completed
The routine HPV vaccination is usually administered in doses of 2 shots or 3 shots (depending on type of HPV vaccine used), to be given over the course of 6 to 24 months.
While most adults have received all doses of HPV vaccine in childhood or adolescence, CDC guidelines recommend re-vaccination in adulthood if your HPV vaccination schedule was not completed.
So for adults who have completed the HPV vaccination during childhood, is booster shot needed?
- Research are ongoing to determine how long vaccinated people remain immune and if further immunization or a booster dose is necessary for continued protection.
- For people who have completed the doses per HPV vaccination schedule during childhood, repeat vaccination is not recommended / justified.
- According to The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), data indicate revaccination with Gardasil 9 (9vHPV) after a 3-dose series of Gardasil (4vHPV) is safe.
But, for adults who want to receive HPV vaccination when get older, there is a challenge:
Where To Get HPV Vaccine After Cut-off Age of 26 (or 18)?
When you are over HPV cervical cancer vaccine age limit of 26 years old, you cannot get the vaccine through the national immunisation program.
With HPV vaccines are only approved for use in people age 26 or younger, any other administration of the vaccine is considered “off label” and many doctors are not willing to do it.
Is there somewhere you can go to get the HPV vaccine off label?
You may be able to find health service provider who is willing to give you the HPV vaccine shot, but you will probably have to pay for it out of pocket, because health insurance will not cover off label use of any pharmaceutical.
Without insurance coverage, each HPV vaccine shot can cost about $130 to $155, for a total of around $390 to $465 for the 3 shots series. Additional admin fee may be charged.
Take Boots UK HPV Vaccination Service for instance, each vaccination will cost £155 if you choose to pay individually, while the total cost is £450 when you pay for the 3 vaccination course upfront.
How To Prevent and Fight HPV Infection If You Are Not Vaccinated?
1. Boost Your Body Immune System
As emphasized by Mayo Clinic, our body’s immune system is the first line of defense to fight HPV, and people with weakened immune systems are at greater risk of HPV infections.
Furthermore, most HPV infections are cleared by the body itself within 2 years. The HPV virus can stay dormant in body and become active again due to weakened immune system.
For body immunity to fight HPV infection or continue make the virus dormant in body, you would need to build your body immune system:
- How To Fight and Prevent HPV by Boosting Your Body Immune System
- Medically Proven Natural Remedies and Foods To Get Rid of HPV and Cervical Dysplasia
2. Practise Safe Protected Sex
Use condoms when you have vaginal or anal sex, although condom is not fullproof against HPV but it can help lower your chances of contracting HPV and genital warts.
Avoid oral sex as HPV as you can get HPV from oral.
3. Get Regular Pap Smears
Pap smear test is designed for females to screen for cancer or precancer symptoms in the cervix, including cervical cancer caused by high-risk HPV strains like HPV-16 and HPV-18.
Getting regular Pap smears when visit the gynecologist is important to early detect any HPV-related abnormal cervical cell changes for next course of actions.
HPV Vaccine Age Cut Off Limit for Adults: Review Conclusion
The typical HPV vaccine age cut off limit is 26 years old, though there are countries like United Kingdom and Australia recommend HPV vaccination through 18 years of age.
HPV vaccination is effective when administered through the age limit when one has not been exposed to the HPV during childhood or adolescence. Nonetheless, HPV vaccine for adults over 40 and 30 years old can still be beneficial as it is unlikely that you would have been infected with all HPV types prevented by the vaccines like Gardasil 9, even if you have been sexually active.
While it is always not too late to get HPV vaccine, the vaccines can only be administered at the discretion of your doctor when you are over 26 as age limit of authorized HPV vaccine use. Most of the time they may decline to administer it off-label to you at all, and you would need to pay the cost by yourself when you find health service provider who is willing to give you the HPV vaccine shots.
With more studies on the effectiveness of HPV vaccine works in adults after age 26, medical experts alongside countries and government may find reason to finally recommend it for older adults.