Study: HPV shots ineffective for adult women

February 12, 2009

At what age should the cervical cancer vaccine for women not be used?

At what age should the cervical cancer vaccine for women not be used?

Speaking at the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists, Walter Kinney, MD, reported on evidence of the upper levels of usefulness of the human papillomavirus vaccine (HPV). Girls between the ages of 10 and 14 would have between 50% and 70% of grade-2 or -3 cervical intrapeipthelial neoplasias, a leading cause of cervical cancer, prevented.

But the number drops to between 10% and 24% when the HVP vaccine is administered to women ages 20 to 24. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current recommendation is for all women 26 and younger to receive the shot.) For women ages 30 to 34, the numbers were 5% to 20%, and for woman aged 40 to 44 it was a mere 0% to 5%.

Age is a key issue for the vaccine, since it works only for women who have not had exposure to HPV, which is almost always via sexual contact. There is an ongoing debate about whether giving it to teens and tweens encouraging them to be sexually active. Add to that a new debate: when it's not worth administering the vaccine anymore.