American Cancer Society: 2 HPV Shots Instead of 3 OK for Ages 9-14

Close-up of a gloved hand holding a vial of HPV vaccine

The American Cancer Society is endorsing a recommendation from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) that says boys and girls who start receiving the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine between ages 9 and 14 can get 2 doses instead of 3. Most cervical cancer is caused by HPV. The virus has also been linked to cancers of the vulva, vagina, penis, anus, and throat.

Even though the vaccine has been proven to be safe and effective in preventing cancer, vaccination rates in the US remain low. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2015 only 28% of boys and 42% of girls ages 13 to 17 had completed the vaccination series. ACS experts say cutting down on the doses could make it easier for people to complete the vaccination.

“In the past several years, studies have shown the vaccine is even more effective than expected,” said Debbie Saslow, PhD, Senior Director, HPV Related and Women's Cancers for the American Cancer Society. “This new two-dose regimen is easier to follow, and we now know is very effective in preventing HPV, which is linked to a half dozen types cancer.”

The update

The ACS based its decision on a review of published and unpublished data from clinical trials, which showed that 2 doses protected boys and girls ages 9 to 14 from HPV infection. The review article was published February 7 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

The updated recommendation is:

  • 2 doses of HPV vaccine for children starting the series before their 15th birthday
  • The second dose given 6 to 12 months after the first dose
  • 3 doses for those starting the series from ages 15 to 26

Age 11 or 12 is best

Although HPV vaccination can be started as early as age 9, the American Cancer Society recommends it for boys and girls starting at age 11 or 12 because the vaccines produce the strongest immune responses at this age, and because this is also an age when children still will be seeing their doctor regularly and getting other vaccinations.

The vaccine becomes less effective as people reach their 20s, and it has not been studied in those older than 26.

The American Cancer Society medical and editorial content team

Our team is made up of doctors and oncology certified nurses with deep knowledge of cancer care as well as journalists, editors, and translators with extensive experience in medical writing.

Cancer Screening in the United States, 2017: A Review of Current American Cancer Society Guidelines and Current Issues in Cancer Screening. Published February 7, 2017 in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians. First author Robert A. Smith, PhD, American Cancer Society, Atlanta. 

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