Should Older Women Get the HPV Vaccine?

Health News

By Anne Harding

TUESDAY, June 2, 2009 ( — Most people have heard about the shot that can protect young girls and women from the human papillomavirus, or HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. But what about older women?

The picture for older women—meaning mid-20s and up—is a bit murkier. According to a study published this week in The Lancet, an HPV vaccine can indeed protect women ages 24 to 45 from getting the sexually transmitted virus.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that every woman in this age group needs—or should get—such shots, some experts say. The vaccine is currently approved for use in women and girls ages 9 to 24, and insurers don’t cover it for older women.

In addition, it’s not clear whether the vaccine will actually protect older women from cervical cancer, and it isn’t cheap. The vaccine’s three injections (sold as Gardasil in the United States) cost about $375, and that doesn’t include the office-visit fees that some doctors charge.

It’s definitely possible that Gardasil could benefit older women, says Kenneth Noller, MD, of Tufts Medical Center, in Boston, who wasn’t involved in the research. “This article doesn’t give me enough information to know,” Dr. Noller says. “What we really need to know is if these women who were vaccinated developed less significant disease than women who weren’t vaccinated, and we won’t know this until several years from now.”

Nevertheless, Kevin Ault, MD, an ob-gyn at Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, who helped conduct the new study, says he would recommend Gardasil for older patients who run the risk of being exposed to an HPV infection. He uses the example of someone entering the dating scene after years of monogamy. “Real-life examples come to me all the time,” Dr. Ault says.


Comment from Leslie

This has been all over the news today – I chose the most unbiased article to post.  This is nothing more that opening new markets for a dangerous vaccine to a population of women already at risk for more adverse reactions because of age.


Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.