Vitality

HPV Vaccine Protection Update: Children Don’t Need All 3 Shots To Stay Safe Against Disease, Panel Says

When it comes to the HPV vaccine, three may be a crowd — at least for kids under the age of 15.

Earlier this Wednesday, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) announced its latest recommendations for HPV vaccination. After reviewing the available evidence, the panel of experts agreed that children 15 or younger would receive as much protection against the viral disease from two shots as they could from three — the current standard. Children first vaccinated after they turn 15 are still recommended to get 3 shots in total for optimal protection, however. It’s hoped the reduced schedule will encourage more families to vaccinate.

“By reducing the number of doses needed to complete HPV vaccination, it should lead to an increase in the percentage of eligible boys and girls who get vaccinated,” Douglas Lowy, acting director of the National Cancer Institute, told the Washington Post. While Lowy is one of the researchers to have developed the technology behind the HPV vaccine, he is not an ACIP member.

Gardasil An expert panel enlisted by the federal government has recommended that kids under the age of 15 need to only receive two, not three, doses of the HPV vaccine to be best protected. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Brought together by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), the 15 voting members of the ACIP meet three times a year at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s headquarters in Atlanta. Georgia to discuss current vaccine research and possible policy recommendations. Though the ACIP’s recommendations require the CDC director’s approval before becoming official CDC policy, they are generally upheld. The HPV recommendation was put to a vote on the first day of ACIP’s last scheduled meeting this year, held October 19 to 20.

HPV vaccination rates, while increasing, have been lower than hoped since the first and still most common vaccine — Gardasil — was made available to the public in 2006. Only 28 percent of boys and 42 percent of girls between the ages of 13 to 17 have received all three doses of the shot as of 2015. These figures are disappointing given that the vaccine can dramatically lower the risk of cervical, anal, and other cancers fueled by certain strains of HPV. Without greater adherence, it’s estimated that there will be more than 14 million new HPV infections annually.

According to the panel’s recommendations, the first dose should be given starting at age 11 or 12, though it can be offered as early as age 9, with a second booster shot to be given six months to a year later. Children between 9 and 14 who have already received two doses of HPV vaccine less than 5 months apart will require a third dose, however, as will anyone with weakened immune systems. The vaccine in general is only recommended for people under the age of 26, since it’s unlikely older people haven’t already been infected by the virus.

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