Follow up visit
My roommate has a friend getting a masters in public health, so she emailed to ask her why it is I'm too old to live. Here was her response, for interested parties:
The vaccine is for 4 types of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV). These 4 types cause most, but not all cervical cancers (about 70%), and so it provides some protection against that as well as HPV-associated genital warts. The vaccine is not effective against other strains of HPV oragainst cervical cancers due to non-HPV causes- so women who get the vaccine still need pap smears and are still at some risk of cervical cancer.And with that, I'm off in an hour to get meningitis and polio vaccines instead.
The vaccine isn't approved for women over 26 because it hasn't been tested in them (not yet, anyway). This is probably due to the fact that a sexually active woman's chances of having already gotten some of the 4 strains of HPV are much higher by this age (they can't really test you and see which strains you have). Most sexually active women get HPV at some point and chances are high that someone our age has already acquired at least one strain. Protection against the remaining strains is nice, but the real huge benefits are supposed to be for girls who aren't yet sexually active. We public health folks love vaccination, but in this case we have to weigh the costs of the shot against the likelihood of already having HPV, and the fact that you'll still be getting yearly pap tests no matter what you do.