Expert Commentary

The HPV vaccine is now recommended for adults aged 27–45: Counseling implications

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Impact of the new indication on HPV-related disease

As described above, widespread vaccination of young girls and boys is going to have major impact on HPV-related disease, including precancer and cancer. Because there is evidence that older women and men are at risk for new HPV infection,10 there likely will be some benefit from vaccination of adults. It is difficult, however, to extrapolate the degree to which adult vaccination will impact HPV-related disease. This is because we do not fully understand the rates at which new HPV infection in the cervices of older women will progress to high-grade dysplasia or cancer. Further, the pathophysiology of HPV-related cancers at other anogenital sites and new oral-pharyngeal infection is poorly understood in comparison with our knowledge of the natural history of high-risk HPV infection in younger women. That said, because of the outstanding efficacy of HPV vaccination and the low-risk profile, even if the actual impact on prevention of cancer or morbidity from dysplasia is relatively low, adult vaccination benefits outweigh the limited risks.

It may be that increased vaccination and awareness of vaccination for adults may enhance the adherence and acceptance of widespread vaccination of boys and girls. Adult vaccination could create a cultural shift toward HPV vaccination acceptance when adult parents and loved ones of vaccine-age boys and girls have been vaccinated themselves.

Current and future insurance coverage

The Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, mandates coverage for all immunizations recommended by the ACIP. HPV vaccination up to age 26 is fully covered, without copay or deductible. The ACIP did consider extension of the indications for HPV vaccination to men and women up to age 45 at their October 2018 meeting. They are tasked with considering not only safety and efficacy but also the cost effectiveness of implementing vaccination. They continue to study the costs and potential benefits of extending HPV vaccination to age 45. Their recommendations may be determined at the February 2019 meeting—or even later in 2019. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) relies upon ACIP for practice guidance. Once the ACIP has made a determination, and if new guidelines are published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, insurance coverage and ACOG guidance will be updated.

How should we react and change practice based on this new indication?

Given the information reviewed by the FDA, ObGyns will want to discuss the availability of Gardasil 9 with our patients between ages 27 and 45 who have not been previously immunized.

Especially for our patients with exposure to multiple or new sexual partners, immunization against oncogenic HPV viral types is effective in providing protection from cancer precursors and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina, and anus—and of course from genital warts. They should understand that, until formal recommendations are published by the ACIP, they are likely to be responsible for the cost of the vaccination series. These conversations will also remind our patients to immunize their teens against HPV. The more conversation we have regarding the benefits of vaccination against high-risk HPV types, the more likely we are to be able to achieve the impressive results seen in Australia.

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