Convincing Adults to Get the HPV Vaccine For Themselves Is a Hard Sell When Maybe It Should Not Be In Certain Circumstances

HPVAccording to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC), the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection, and nearly 80 million people—about one in four—are currently infected in the United States. About 14 million people, including teens, become infected with HPV each year.

The HPV vaccine is an important development because it protects against cancers caused by human papillomavirus virus (HPV).  The HPV vaccination can prevent most of the cancers. We Boomers hear a lot that our pre teenage and teenage grandchildren should be vaccinated, but it is only recently that we are hearing that adults to age 45, and even to age 55, should consider vaccination. The HPV vaccine has been approved for adults up to age 45, yet most adults have a negative reaction to this approval.  Most adults think they do not need it or that it is too late for them.  However, it should not be such a hard sell for the adult age group in certain circumstances based on varied considerations.

The CDC says that nearly all sexually active people pick up HPV at some point in life. Most people with HPV never develop symptoms or health problems. Most HPV infections (9 out of 10) go away by themselves within two years. But, sometimes, HPV infections will last longer, and can cause certain cancers and other diseases. HPV infections can cause:

cancers of the cervix, vagina, and vulva in women;

cancers of the penis in men; and

cancers of the anus and back of the throat, including the base of the tongue and tonsils (oropharynx), in both women and men.

The best information about the HPV vaccine for adults seems to be on doctors’ websites, and they seem to be in favor of the vaccine for adults to age 45, but, then, they want to sell it.  For those adults who feel it is too late for them, as adults, to get the vaccine, as once you’re infected, the vaccine won’t do you any good, on some doctors’ websites, three doses are recommended for older adults to possibly suppress any preexisting virus.

The doctors’ websites say older men and women may benefit from the vaccine’s protective effect. They even say adults who have had only one or two sexual partners can benefit from the vaccine even at an older age.

Here is a list of potential benefits of the HPV vaccine in men and women over age 45 I found on the internet on websites such as this link.

•    Prevention of HPV infection including genital warts and cervical cancer in patients with few or no lifetime sexual partners
•    Decrease risk of genital wart recurrence
•    Decrease chances of a high-grade CIN on cervical pap-smear and risk of cancer
•    Decreased risk of anal warts
•    Decreased risk of infecting sexual partners

However, although most health insurance companies in the United States cover the cost of HPV vaccine in patients under the age of 26, adults above the age of 45 may have to pay out of pocket. Each shot costs about $250, and three shots are recommended for older adults.

I put the search, “should married adults get the HPV vaccine” into google, and it was a Readers Digest article that provided considerations for making the decision. https://www.rd.com/health/conditions/hpv-vaccine-for-adults/

“. . . .Although the vaccine does not protect against all types of human papilloma virus and therefore will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer, Dr. Zeszutek [FACOG, RPh, Course Director for Physical Diagnosis in the Department of Primary Care at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine–Middletown], adds, some people would likely do well to get the vax. “If you’ve never had an abnormal pap smear or a sexually transmitted infection and have had fewer than three sexual partners in your lifetime, then you may be a good candidate to receive the vaccine when you are older and derive the full benefits. . . .

“Also, if someone has a history of an abnormal pap smear, they might consider getting the vaccine to prevent infection with other HPV strains to which they have not yet been exposed.”

BUT….it is not definitive:

“Not everyone believes it’s advantageous to get the HPV vaccine past age 26: According to board-certified dermatologist and pediatrician, Tsippora Shainhouse, MD, FAAD, the vaccine is not generally recommended once individuals are sexually active or are with a monogamous partner and are in their 30s or older. It is probably too late to be effective for cancer prevention, and the risk for human papilloma virus transmission into the skin cells is lower.”

What if the adult is not married or newly single?

“However,” she adds, “if someone is 26 years-plus and not yet sexually active, or has been minimally sexually active, but would like to be in the future, it is completely appropriate to have the vaccine.” That could include late bloomers and women who are newly back on the dating scene after being married monogamous with the same person for many years.”

What about gay male adults?

“Shainhouse also suggests that men having sex with men might consider having the vaccine, even if they are over 26, especially if they have become more sexually active in their later years, as opposed to when they were younger. “Anal warts can develop internally and may be difficult for the patient or partner to visualize or feel easily,” she explains. “HPV-induced changes to the anal skin and tissue can be similar to changes in cervical tissue, leading to a similar type of cancer. Because men do not usually have anal skin tested in a way that women get routine Pap smears, the HPV vaccine for men can help prevent some HPV-related cell changes and potentially prevent anal and penile skin cancers.”

So. . . HPV Vaccination for Men and Women up to 45 and Older than 45?

Studies show that the HPV vaccine is effective in preventing precancerous changes in women up to age 55. Similar benefits can be expected for men. The effectiveness of the HPV vaccine is similar among age groups. But note that insurance does not typically cover the cost of HPV vaccination in men and women over age 26.

Getting the HPV vaccine as an adult should not be such a hard sell.  The decision of whether or not to get vaccinated depends. Life circumstances and changes in life circumstances can affect the decision of whether or not an adult should consider the HPV vaccine.  Of course, one should always consult with a doctor, if life circumstances are such that getting the vaccine as an adult is a consideration.  From my internet research, I feel that consulting with a doctor who has a website about the HPV vaccine for adults is consulting with a doctor who may be more likely than not to be in favor of adult vaccination.

We Boomer Women over age 55 do not have the ability to benefit from the HPV vaccine.  However, we have lived long enough to know that no life circumstance or life decision is ever etched in stone, and tomorrow, new technological advances may change that for us too.

Joy,

Mema

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