The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved Merck’s Gardasil 9 vaccine — previously recommended for for both girls and boys at age 11 or 12 — to women and men through age 45. Known as the HPV vaccine, Gardasil 9 prevents certain cancers and diseases caused by nine types of human papillomavirus, including those that cause the greatest risk of cervical cancer.
HPV is a very common virus; nearly 80 million people — about one in four — are currently infected in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. Every year in this country, 33,700 women and men are diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection. HPV vaccination could prevent more than 90 percent of these cancers — 31,200 cases annually — from ever developing.
The FDA approved Gardasil in 2006 to prevent certain cancers and diseases caused by four HPV types. In 2014, the FDA approved Gardasil 9 — which covers five additional HPV types — for use in males and females ages 9 to 26.
This fall, the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics found higher rates of HPV vaccinations do not correlate to higher levels of risky sexual behaviors among teens.
The study found that many indicators of risky sexual activity among teens have actually decreased in recent years, while access to the HPV vaccination has increased. Researchers found no difference in risky sexual behaviors among teens in states with financial incentives or school-based education programs to help increase HPV rates compared to teens in states without such legislation.