Image: AP

The FDA has signed off on expanded version of the Gardasil vaccine, for adults up to 45.

ABC News reported that the new version, Gardasil 9, protects against four more strains of HPV than the original. Perhaps the biggest change, though, is to the age guidelines:

Gardasil was originally approved for girls in 2006 and later for boys — partly to reduce the spread of HPV to girls. While Gardasil was approved for ages 9 through 26, the shots are especially recommended for boys and girls at 11 or 12, before they first have sex and could get infected. About half of U.S. teens now have had two or three doses.

Company testing done in older adults showed the vaccine also worked for them, too. In women 24 through 45, the original Gardasil was about 90 percent effective three years after the women received a third dose.

“Today’s approval represents an important opportunity to help prevent HPV-related diseases and cancers in a broader age range,” said the FDA’s Dr. Peter Marks in an announcement. The New York Times reported:

“This is great,” Dr. Lois M. Ramondetta, a professor of gynecologic oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, said in an interview. “It’s a prevention vaccine. The best time to get it is before you turn 13 and have any intimate activity at all. 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.”

She added: “There is a whole generation of people we were missing who didn’t know about it. Doctors weren’t good at talking about it.”

She and Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, said people over 26 began asking doctors about the vaccine. Some were leaving marriages or monogamous relationships, expected to begin dating and realized they might be exposed to the virus.

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Of course, it’s still $205 per dose, with Merck recommending three doses for older people—so, unless you have insurance that provides coverage, it’s gonna cost you $615 totally. Hopefully, the FDA’s sign off will lead insurance companies to cover it, but at this rate we’re never going to catch up to Australia, where they made the vaccine free and implemented a thorough screening program and are now on track to eliminate cervical cancer.