The Number of Recommended HPV Shots Has Changed

The CDC has long recommended that all kids ages 11 and 12 get three doses of the HPV vaccine. While the ages haven’t changed, the recommended number of shots has.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has long recommended that all kids ages 11 and 12 get three doses of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine. While the ages haven’t changed, the recommended number of shots has.

As of October 19, officials now say that kids ages 11 to 14 only need two doses of the vaccine (Gardasil/Merck) at least six months apart from one another to be protected. However, for teens and young adults ages 15 to 26 who did not start the series at the recommended time will still need three doses. Each dose is $130, but it is typically covered by insurance.

HPV infections usually clear up on their own, but for those that don’t, they can persist to genital warts, cervical cancer, or other cancers.

“Safe, effective, and long-lasting protection against HPV cancers with two visits instead of three means more Americans will be protected from cancer. This recommendation will make it simpler for parents to get their children protected in time,” CDC Director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, said in a news release.

Clinical trials using adolescents ages 9 to 14 showed similar responses to two doses compared to young adults ages 16 to 26 who received three doses.

The updated recommendation was approved by Frieden after the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted and pushed the measure through. The two-dose HPV vaccine guideline has been published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).

Healthcare providers should start to follow this new schedule immediately. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the update for the two-dose 9-valent HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) earlier in October.

More than 27,000 men and women are affected by HPV-related cancers, according to the CDC. The list includes:

  • Cervical cancer: Almost all cases are caused by HPV
  • Anal cancer: About 91% of cases are linked to HPV
  • Vaginal cancer: About 75% of cases are linked to HPV
  • Vulvar cancer: About 69% of cases are linked to HPV
  • Penile cancer: About 63% of cases are linked to HPV
  • Cancer of the back of the throat: About 72% of cases are linked to HPV (but many could be related to tobacco or alcohol)

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