Medicaid Coverage of HPV Vaccine in Adults: Implications in Dermatology

Heidi Splete

November 10, 2022

A majority of states cover human papillomavirus vaccination through age 45 years with no need for prior authorization, which has implications for adults with certain dermatologic diseases, according to the authors of a review of Medicaid policies across all 50 states.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine is approved for people aged 9-45 years, for preventing genital, cervical, anal, and oropharyngeal cancers, and genital warts. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends routine vaccination with the HPV vaccine for individuals aged 9-26 years, with "shared clinical decision-making" recommended for vaccination of those aged 27-45 years, wrote Nathaniel Goldman of New York Medical College, Valhalla, and coauthors, from the University of Missouri–Kansas City and Harvard Medical School, Boston.

In particular, adults with dermatologic conditions including hidradenitis suppurativa, atopic dermatitis, and systemic lupus erythematosus "may be at increased risk for persistent and high-risk HPV infection...and may benefit from vaccination," they added. However, the details of Medicaid insurance coverage for the vaccine in adults at risk have not been explored, so the researchers examined Medicaid policies for coverage of the vaccine for adults aged 27-45 years as a proxy for coverage of the insured adult population in the United States. They collected data from Sept. 14 through Dec. 8, 2021. The results were published in a research letter in JAMA Dermatology.

A total of 33 states offered formal statewide Medicaid coverage policies that were accessible online or through the state's Medicaid office. Another 11 states provided coverage through Medicaid managed care organizations, and 4 states had HPV vaccination as part of their formal Medicaid adult vaccination programs.

Overall, 43 states covered HPV vaccination through age 45 years with no need for prior authorization, and another 4 states (Ohio, Maine, Nebraska, and New York) provided coverage with prior authorization for adults older than 26 years.

The study findings were limited by the use of Medicaid coverage only, the researchers noted. Consequently, patients eligible for HPV vaccination who are uninsured or have other types of insurance may face additional barriers in the form of high costs, given that the current retail price is $250-$350 per shot for the three-shot series, the researchers noted.

However, the results suggest that Medicaid coverage for HPV vaccination may inform dermatologists' recommendations for patients at increased risk, they said. More research is needed to "better identify dermatology patients at risk for new HPV infection and ways to improve vaccination rates in these vulnerable individuals," they added.

Vaccine Discussions Are Important in Dermatology

Dr Megan Noe

"Dermatologists care for patients who may be an increased risk of vaccine-preventable illnesses, either from a skin disease or a dermatology medication," corresponding author Megan H. Noe, MD, a dermatologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, and assistant professor of dermatology, Harvard Medical School, Boston, said in an interview. "Over the last several years, we have seen that all physicians, whether they provide vaccinations or not, can play an important role in discussing vaccines with their patients," she said.

"Vaccines can be cost-prohibitive for patients without insurance coverage, so we hope that dermatologists will be more likely to recommend the HPV vaccine to patients 27-45 years of age if they know that it is likely covered by insurance," Noe noted.

However, "time may be a barrier for many dermatologists who have many important things to discuss with patients during their appointments," she said. "We are currently working on developing educational information to help facilitate this conversation," she added.

Looking ahead, she said that "additional research is necessary to create vaccine guidelines specific to dermatology patients and dermatology medications, so we can provide clear recommendations to our patients and ensure appropriate insurance coverage for all necessary vaccines."

Vaccine Discussions

"I think it's great that many Medicaid plans are covering HPV vaccination," said Karl Saardi, MD, of the department of dermatology, George Washington University, Washington, who was asked to comment on the study. "I routinely recommend [vaccination] for patients who have viral warts, since it does lead to improvement in some cases," Saardi, who was not involved in the current study, said in an interview. "Although we don't have the HPV vaccines in our clinic for administration, my experience has been that patients are very open to discussing it with their primary care doctors."

Although the upper age range continues to rise, "I think getting younger people vaccinated will also prove to be important," said Saardi, director of the inpatient dermatology service at the George Washington University Hospital.

The point made in the current study about the importance of HPV vaccination in patients with hidradenitis suppurativa is also crucial, he added. "Since chronic skin inflammation in hidradenitis drives squamous cell carcinoma, reducing the impact of HPV on such cancers makes perfect sense."

The study received no outside funding. Noe disclosed grants from Boehringer Ingelheim unrelated to the current study. Saardi had no financial conflicts to disclose.

This article originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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