Gardasil 9, the preventative HPV vaccine, is now approved and available for women and men ages 27 to 45. That's big news when you consider all the illnesses it can help prevent.

By Stacey Leasca
October 10, 2018
Westend61/Getty Images

On Friday, the Food and Drug Administration announced that Gardasil 9, the preventative HPV vaccine, is now approved and available for older adults women and men ages 27 to 45 (previously it was only offered to those ages 26 and younger). While that news may not seem like an enormous deal at first glance, here's the thing: The HPV vaccine doesn't just help protect you against HPV; it also can help prevent several deadly diseases potentially brought on by HPV. Additionally, even if you already have HPV, the vaccine covers nine types of it, so it can offer protection against the one you don't have.

What Is HPV?

The Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) consists of a group of more than 150 related viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The virus has been linked to causing cancer of the mouth, throat, anus, and rectum in both men and women, as well as penile cancer in men and cervical, vaginal, and vulvar cancers in women.

What’s in the Vaccine?

Gardasil, which was first approved by the FDA in 2006, contains a dead copy of the virus, which prompts the body to create its own antibodies against the virus. You cannot get HPV from the vaccine.

What Can Gardasil 9 Protect Against?

This vaccine has the potential to prevent more than 90 percent of cancers potentially brought on by HPV, including cervical, anal, penile, and vaginal cancers. That’s huge when you consider an estimated 13,240 women get cervical cancer each year and 4,170 die from it, according to the American Cancer Society. Beyond cervical and penile cancers, the HPV vaccine can also help protect against the development of genital warts and precancerous lesions.

Who Should Get the Vaccine?

To find out if the vaccine is right for you, check in with your doctor. "The best time to get it is before you turn 13 and have any intimate activity at all," Lois M. Ramondetta, MD, a professor of gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, told The New York Times. "But, that said, it protects against nine types of HPV, so if you have one of the types, you still can be protected from other HPV types.”