The FDA has extended the vaccine's approval age from 27 to 45 years.
Over the last 12 years, the HPV vaccine has become established to prevent cervical cancer and other cancers in men and women.
For millions of Americans, infection with human papillomavirus or HPV will not cause a serious health problem, Dr. Mary Kelleher, chief physician of the Berks Community Health Center. But for thousands, the virus will turn into cancer.
The vaccine is a great way to prevent the virus from becoming more serious, she said.
The ability to prevent this with a vaccine makes it so attractive, "said Kelleher. "This is really a cancer-preventive vaccine. Vaccines prevent all sorts of bad things, but we've never had the opportunity to rule out cancer in women, and more rarely in men who have HPV cancer. "
The Gardasil 9 vaccine was approved for people under the age of 26, but last month the US Food and Drug Administration extended the age of consent for individuals from 27 to 45 years.
The approval "represents an important opportunity to prevent HPV-related diseases and cancers in a wider age," said Drs. Peter Marks, Director of the FDA Center for Biological Evaluation and Research, said in a statement last month.
The change is good news in the fight against multiple HPV-related cancers in the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus and in the neck area, said an expert on infectious diseases.
"I found that very exciting," Dr. Debra Powell, Chief of the Infectious Diseases Section and Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Reading Hospital. "It's a vaccine that prevents cancer."
HPV is a group of approximately 150 related viruses transmitted through intimate skin contact.
According to the Federal Centers for the Prevention and Control of Diseases, about 14 million people become infected each year.
For many people, the virus goes away without any problems. In other cases, it can lead to diseases such as genital warts and cancer.
"If you can prevent people from getting this infection, you can prevent cancer on the street," Powell said.
According to the CDC, HPV causes 33,700 male and female cancers a year in the United States. The vaccine has the potential to prevent about 90 percent of these cancers, the CDC estimates.
Kelleher said the vaccine had aroused the interest of patients. Being able to offer it to a larger group of people is a good thing to reduce the burden of HPV.
Patients between 27 and 45 years need three vaccinations over a period of about six months.
Kelleher said that patients who came out of long-term relationships or marriages might be interested in the vaccine to reduce the exposure risk.
"Many people do not want anything if they do not believe they are at risk," Kelleher said. "We know that over 14 million Americans come into contact with this virus. It is much more likely that you will come into contact with this virus than with this virus. "
The two-dose vaccine series is recommended for children 11 or 12 years of age. However, this was a difficult sale for some parents.
"I think because HPV is transmitted sexually, there is a great deal of fear about talking to children and adolescents about sexuality," Kelleher said. "There is a very emotional and non-scientific reaction to it."
Kelleher said the vaccine will not encourage children to have sex. It will provide protection against nine virus strains, including those most commonly associated with cancer, she said.
The vaccine has the same side effects that are commonly associated with injectable vaccines, such as pain, redness, or swelling in the arm where the shot was administered. Dizziness, fainting, nausea and headaches are also side effects.
In 2017, approximately 66 percent of adolescents aged 13 to 17 received the first dose to begin the vaccine series, and nearly 49 percent of adolescents completed the series, according to the CDC.
Kelleher said it was a good start, but the vaccine could do much more.
"I hope there is a day in my life when cervical cancer is a thing of the past," she said. "I hope we can look back one day and say that this was a devastating disease, and we eradicated it with a vaccine that was available."
What: The human papillomavirus is a group of more than 150 related viruses. In most cases, it starts on its own and does not cause any health problems. However, if HPV does not disappear, it can lead to health problems such as genital warts and cancer.
Transmission: HPV is transmitted through intimate skin contact. You can get HPV by having vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has the virus.
Frequency: Almost 80 million Americans have some type of HPV and about 14 million get infected each year.
HPV cancers: HPV causes 33,700 cancers in men and women in the US every year. It can cause cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, penis or anus and in the back of the throat.
The vaccine: The vaccine can prevent the development of about 31,200 cancer cases.
Recommendation: All children 11 or 12 years of age should receive two HPV vaccinations at intervals of six to twelve months. Teenagers who receive their two shots at intervals of less than five months need a third dose of HPV vaccine. Children over 14 years need three shots over 6 months. The admission is permitted for minors and persons up to 26 years.
Recent update: In October, the US Food and Drug Administration approved Gardasil 9 for people between 27 and 45 years. People in this group need three doses that are spread over about six months.
Vaccine side effects: It may be associated with pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the shot was delivered; Other symptoms include dizziness, fainting, nausea and headache.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention