Big news came last week from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration: It has now approved the HPV
vaccine, which prevents several types of cancer, for adults ages 25 to 45.
The vaccine had previously been approved only for ages 9 to 26.
The vaccine prevents infection with the human papillomaviruis, which is responsible for most cases
of cervical cancer in the United States, and a growing proportion of oropharyngeal cancer. The
vaccine also can prevent cancers of the penis and anus.
Vaccination during younger ages is still considered ideal; the idea is to prevent infection before
people are exposed to the virus. Many adults already have been exposed, and the vaccine cannot
protect people who already have been infected.
But according to the FDA, many people have been exposed to only one strain of the virus, while the
vaccine protects against nine strains. It's worth protecting patients against the many strains that
can cause serious illness, the FDA decided. The virus also can result in genital warts.
“Today’s approval represents an important opportunity to help prevent HPV-related diseases and
cancers in a broader age range,” Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D., director of the FDA’s Center for
Biologics Evaluation and Research, said on Friday. ”The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
has stated that HPV vaccination prior to becoming infected with the HPV types covered by the vaccine
has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers, or 31,200 cases every year, from
According to a press release from the FDA, a study found that the vaccine was 88 percent effective at preventing
genital warts, persistant infection, precancerous lesions and cervical cancer.
A report by the New York Times on the FDA's decision
said that it will now be up to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices to decide whether to
recommend the vaccine for ages 25 to 45, who would need three doses of the vaccine, compared with
two for younger patients. If the CDC makes the vaccine part of its immunization schedule, many
health insurers would cover vaccination.
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