How old is too old for the HPV vaccination?
The safety and long-term side effects of Gardasil 9 has only been proven in males and females up to the age of 26. However, this doesn’t mean that Gardasil 9 cannot be prescribed to those above this age, rather that the benefits have not been studied in an official clinical trial and therefore cannot be guaranteed.
HPV vaccine works best for people who have never had sex before. So, probably more important than age, is whether or not you have ever had sex (oral, vaginal or anal). This is because HPV is spread by having sex, or intimate skin to skin contact of the genital areas.
Does this mean that if I have already had sex, there is no point in having the HPV vaccine?
There are over 100 different types of HPV virus, but only a few of these (12 types) cause genital warts or increase the risk of pre-cancerous changes of the genitals, anus, throat and mouth. So, even if you have had sex, you might not have come into contact with one of the harmful types of HPV.
The likelihood of this is decreased even more the fewer people you have had sex with in your lifetime, and if you have always used condoms.
So, having the HPV vaccine won’t protect you from whatever you’ve already got, but it will lower the risk of developing warts and pre-cancerous changes from other types of HPV that you haven’t yet been infected with.
Should I have the HPV vaccine if I have already had genital warts or been told that I have HPV after a smear test?
Even if you have been infected with one type of HPV, what about all the others? The vaccine won’t cure your warts or reverse any damage the virus has already caused. It also won’t help the body “clear” HPV if you are currently infected. It will, however, stop you getting other types of HPV that cause warts or pre-cancerous changes.
So, on balance, unless you are in a relationship where neither of you will have sex with other people ever again, it would be worth considering the HPV vaccine.
Should men have the HPV vaccine?
In the UK, it is only girls who are routinely get the HPV vaccine. The decision not to vaccinate boys was made by weighing up the cost to the UK government against the likely health benefits to the whole population.
Unfortunately, this reasoning may not work on a personal level. For example, what if you are a man who has sex with a woman from a country where the HPV vaccine is not routinely given? Or you have sex with a woman from the UK who decided not to have the vaccine? Or another man?
In recognition of this, from April 2018, men who have sex with men who are under 45 years old will be able to get the HPV vaccine free of charge when they attend a sexual health clinic. However, many doctors feel that all males should be vaccinated.
Visit our HPV Vaccine Clinic for more information.