Is the HPV Vaccine Worth it for Adults Over 26?

It’s no secret that the human papillomavirus (HPV) virus causes cancer – in fact it’s linked to more than 90% of cervical cancers. However, a new study shows that vaccinating people aged 26 and over against HPV may not be cost effective. The study appeared in in PLOS Medicine. 

The conduct this analysis, researchers used two mathematical models that projected cost and health outcomes of the six HPV-associated cancers and genital warts. The models accounted for historical and future vaccination uptake in younger people, as well as cervical cancer screening practices among women, vaccine efficacy, and vaccination costs.

According to the results, HPV vaccinations beyond age 26 provide only a limited health benefit at the population level and at a high cost. The researchers observed that Their analysis showed that the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) vaccinating people up to age 45 years ranged from $315,700 to $440,600 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY).

“Our study found that the added health benefit of increasing the vaccination age limit beyond 26 years is minimal, and that the cost-effectiveness is much lower than in pre-adolescents, the target age group for the HPV vaccine,” said Jane Kim, K.T. Li Professor of Health Economics and lead author of the study via a press release.


“By the time you vaccinate individuals in their 30s and 40s, many have already been exposed to HPV, so the health benefit really decreases at these older ages,” she said. “It’s also important to emphasize that cervical cancer screening remains an effective and cost-effective way to protect women from cervical cancer,” Prof. Kim added. “Other countries that are considering extending the upper age limit of HPV vaccination to include older adults should consider the opportunity costs of doing so.”