February 9, 2023

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Talk to your provider about the adult HPV vaccine

What you need to know about HPV vaccination as an adult.

Narrator: HPV is a common sexually transmitted infection that can cause genital warts and several types of cancer, including cervical, anal, vaginal, vulva, and head and neck cancer.

The HPV vaccine can help protect you from these diseases, but knowing when to get it as an adult can be confusing, and for some, speaking to a healthcare provider can be an uncomfortable subject. Here are some ideas for how to talk about this important topic.

Dr: That’s it for today, Lara. Don’t forget to plan your next exam. Before you go, do you have any questions?

Lara: You know, I got divorced last year and I’m back together. A friend of mine said I need to get vaccinated against HPV, but I don’t know what HPV even is.

Dr: HPV is the most common form of sexually transmitted infection and by the age of 50 at least four out of five women will be infected with the virus.

Lara: I was never diagnosed with HPV and my ex-husband was my only sex partner.

Dr: Even if you’ve never had HPV, you could get it now that you’re sexually active with new partners. Most HPV infections go away on their own, but some can cause cancer, so staying protected is important.

Lara: So it’s too late for a vaccination?

Dr: No, it’s not too late. It’s ideal for boys and girls to get an HPV vaccine at age 11 or 12 – before they become sexually active – to protect them from certain cancers and genital warts, but the vaccine is approved for adults up to the age of 45.

And since most women don’t get all nine types of HPV that the vaccine protects against, it might still make sense for you to get it. Let’s take a look at your past Pap and HPV tests and go through the specifics of the vaccine.

Narrator: That’s how we all want the conversations to go.

But how are you supposed to deal with it if you want to get vaccinated and your doctor pushes you back?

Lara: You know, I got divorced last year and I’m back together. That’s why I want to get the HPV vaccine.

Dr: I don’t think you really need it. The vaccine prevents new HPV infections but does not treat existing HPV infections. That’s why it’s best for boys and girls to get vaccinated at age 11 or 12, before they’ve ever been exposed to the virus. Vaccination is only recommended for people under the age of 26 if they did not receive it at a young age. Since you’re in your 30s, you really don’t need to worry.

Lara: I heard about it, but it’s legal up to the age of 45. Since I’ve never tested positive for HPV before and I know HPV can cause cancer, I think I should get it. I don’t want to take any risks.

Dr: Well, most adults who have been sexually active have already been exposed to HPV, but not necessarily all of the HPV types that the vaccine targets. And at any age, a new sex partner is a risk factor for a new HPV infection. So if you really want the vaccine, you have every right to get it. I’ll send the nurse in to work out the details.

Speaker: Getting the HPV vaccine after age 26 should be a joint decision-making process with your healthcare provider.

Just check with your insurance company to see if the vaccine will be covered, or if you don’t have health insurance, ask how much it will cost.

Remember that while it may be uncomfortable, you have the right to speak up for yourself to get the medical care you need.

This resource was created with the support of Merck.