Too Old for the HPV Vaccine?

When it comes to grievances about the FDA and healthcare, complaints are in no short supply, but none of these gripes infuriates and confuses me more than the outright refusal to inoculate anyone over the age of 26 against HPV.

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Yes, in the fight against STDs, it seems that people above the age of 26 are left to tackle the risk of transmitting or catching HPV on their own. This is a difficult task as many of the virus’ carriers are asymptomatic. Other reasons for the recent spike in numbers include that fact that this is a lifelong, skin-to-skin transmittable virus and general testing for its presence in the bloodstream is not yet available for males.

And, unless visual symptoms are present in women, a hefty co-pay will be required for blood testing to determine whether HPV is present or not. The HPV vaccine is given in a series of three shots, which is commonly referred to as the Gardasil shots. The combined cost of all three shots without health insurance is roughly $650, and with health insurance a co-pay will be required.

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Side effects from the shots seem pretty severe and often mimic flu symptoms. Another concern is that not enough time has elapse to know the longevity and timely effectiveness of these vaccines. Nonetheless, I am still baffled as to why a larger age range of people aren’t allowed to get these HPV preventative shots.

The human papilloma virus can afflict anyone who is sexually active, regardless of age or number of sexual partners. Not all types and strains of HPV are known to cause genital warts. There are over 40 varieties of HPV but four are well known for the radical changing of normal cells into abnormal and sometimes cancerous cells.

However, the current vaccine which prevents against the spread and catching of the two types of HPV that cause throat or cervical cancer is only FDA approved for males and females ages 9-26. In fact, only females were originally given the go ahead for the vaccine, until a revision by the FDA in 2009 included males in the same age range.

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When returning to the dating pool, it can be really difficult to overcome the fear of STDs, regardless of the HPV vaccine or not. But, not having even the option of the vaccine can make jumping into bed with a stranger even more anxiety-inducing. For more information about the best way to communicate your own health history and to make sure they disclose any  read this informative article.

This is a major problem for all senior citizens who have recently become sexually active after the passing on of their spouse or following a divorce. This inability to be vaccinated greatly contributes to the growing number of seniors in America who are contracting and spreading STDS. Younger divorcees also face the same exact dilemma, despite still being “of breeding age.”

Another problem is that middle aged men and women in the 30s-50s range who missed the window for the HPV shots are unable to do anything about it. This makes this age range at high risk for this virus. For instance, when I was newly single and in my twenties, I made an appointment for an annual exam, full panel STD test and the HPV vaccine.

I was promptly told by the resident medical examiner that despite my “high-risk” single status, I was simply too old for the series of HPV vaccines. Since this time, I have done extensive outside research into organizations such as Planned Parenthood as well as inquiring at county run clinics and private OB/GYN offices.

All have refused to give me the vaccines, based purely on age. Planned Parenthood was the only organization that would let me run through my case of being recently divorced and underneath the amount of acceptable sexual partners. However, after assessing my age, I was still ultimately refused. There is no mention of age restrictions for the HPV vaccination on the planned parenthood website.

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That leaves me with the same options for avoiding lifelong HPV as millions of other sexually active individuals in my age range– latex condoms, adult toys and dental dams. But, since HPV is a skin-to-skin virus, even latex barriers are not 100% effective against the prevention of HPV.

Basically, without the vaccine there isn’t much to do except be abstinent, rely on toys like the True Love Vibrator for pleasure or to always use reliable condoms with your partner like the Durex Rainbow Colors Condoms and the Trojan Class Act. Therefore, in my personal opinion: if you are within the 9-26 age range, and you have yet to get the vaccine but you’d like to be protected from HPV in the future, go ahead and get it now before it’s too late.

About Condom Depot

The Condom Depot Learning Center provides free safer sex ed and has recently been resourced by Men's Health, Go Ask Alice, Her Campus, LifeHacker, Scarleteen, Bustle, Madame Noire, Jezebel, Vice, Stallion Style, aPlus, Sex Talk Tuesday and Adult Sex Ed Month.

Comments

  1. I’m in a similar situation, and share your frustration. I had a negative HPV test a year ago and have just re-entered the dating pool after years of monogamy. But now i can’t find anywhere to get vaccinated to protect myself (and my future partners) because I am too old.

    I am curious what Planned Parenthood considers to be a statistically acceptable number of partners. And whether it would be possible to lie and say I’m within the acceptable age range to get the shots….

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