Vaccine cost sticks students

Student Life

A vaccine for genital human papillomavirus could be made available in the Esry Health Center at Missouri Western, but whether students could afford it is an issue.

Administrative assistant Angie Beck said that the vaccine is so expensive that they don’t have the money for it.

“We’ve had some inquiries, but we don’t have the vaccine in stock yet simply because we have to have a feel as to how the students will pay for it,” Beck said. “And since we don’t file insurance, we would have to put the cost on their account.”

However, junior James Williams said he sees advantages for women if the vaccination were offered through the university health center.

“I think having the vaccine on campus would be useful for a lot of students on campus; because it’s right on campus,” Williams said. “Some students don’t want people to know that they have anything, so they would rather go to the health center than an actual clinic where they might see someone they know.”

According to the CDC Web site, the cost for the series of three vaccinations is $360 dollars at $120 dollars per dose. Following the initial dose, the second dose is given two months later, with the third dose to be given within six months of initiating the vaccination.

The Gardasil® vaccine that is currently on the market protects against four types of HPV, which together cause 70 percent of cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts.

“Studies have found the vaccine to be almost 100 percent effective in preventing diseases caused by the four HPV types covered by the vaccine – including precancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina and genital warts,” according to the CDC Web site. “The vaccine has mainly been studied in young women who had not been exposed to any of the four HPV types in the vaccine.”

However, the CDC warned that the vaccine does not treat existing HPV infections, genital warts, precancers or cancers. However, other treatments exist for the health problems that HPV can cause, including genital warts, cervical cell changes (precancers) and cancers of the cervix.

In addition, the vaccine is recommended for women and girls ages 9-26 who have not contracted HPV because it was less effective in young women who had already been exposed to one of the HPV types covered by the vaccine.

According to the CDC, there are more than 100 known types of HPV, and more than 30 are known to be transmitted through sexual contact.

Most HPV infections don’t cause symptoms and sometimes go away on their own, but lingering infections can sometimes cause high-risk HPV types that can cause cervical cancer in women. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, every year in the U.S. about 10,000 women get cervical cancer and 3,700 die from it.

Family Nurse Practitioner Della Taylor-McIntosh McIntosh said that students need to be vaccinated even if they are not sexually active to limit their chances of being exposed and possibly developing genital warts and cervical cancer. She also said that women should receive pap smears annually to check for cervical cancer.

Some Missouri Western students differ with McIntosh. Freshman Emily Ferger has mixed feelings about the vaccination.

“I think that the whole concept is a good idea, but I believe that more research should be done before the vaccine is taken widespread,” Ferger said. “The scientists say that it will take another 23 years to develop well-substantiated research about birth defects and reproductive organs, so I am somewhat leery about the whole idea. I would not take it because I do not feel that we have enough evidence of long term effects of the vaccine.”

According to the CDC Web site, the vaccine is not recommended for pregnant women.

Sophomore Jason Bryan believes the HPV vaccine to be a positive development for women.

“I believe that the HPV vaccine is a good thing and should be useful in helping to prevent cervical cancer and other diseases,” Bryan said. “Being a male I see no reason to take it, but if I were a woman I would definitely be vaccinated.”

According to the CDC Web site, studies are now being conducted to find out if the vaccine works to prevent HPV in males.

“When more information is available, this vaccine may be licensed and recommended for boys/men as well,” according to the Web site.

Sophomore Ivory Duncan said that this whole issue could be prevented through safe sex.

“I would not take [the vaccine] because I don’t have unprotected sex; so I have a slim chance of being affected by it,” she said.

But, according to the CDC Web site, the only sure way to prevent HPV is to abstain from all sexual activity because it is not known how much protection condoms provide against HPV, since areas that are not covered by a condom can be exposed to the virus.

Junior Donnell Roberson said he’s all for vaccinations that can help prevent cancer being available to students.

“I think it’s a great idea to get the vaccine if it helps prevent cancer,” Roberson said. “As a male, I would not take the vaccine because I would rather for women to use the vaccine because the disease is shown to be more common in women than men.”

The CDC Web site states that at least 50% of men and women who are sexually active will become infected with HPV sometime in their life. In addition, by age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection.

Junior Kevin Dahlman also thinks the campus should offer the vaccinations to students.

“I would take the vaccine shot because I rather be safe than sorry,” he said.

HPV Vaccine Facts from the CDC

Q. How long does vaccine protection last? Will a booster shot be needed?

The length of vaccine protection (immunity) is usually not known when a vaccine is first introduced. So far, studies have followed women for five years and found that women are still protected. More research is being done to find out how long protection will last, and if a booster vaccine is needed years later.

Q. What does the vaccine not protect against?

Because the vaccine does not protect against all types of HPV, it will not prevent all cases of cervical cancer or genital warts. About 30% of cervical cancers will not be prevented by the vaccine, so it will be important for women to continue getting screened for cervical cancer (regular Pap tests). Also, the vaccine does not prevent about 10% of genital warts—nor will it prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So it will still be important for sexually active adults to reduce exposure to HPV and other STIs.

Q. What kind of government programs may be available to cover HPV vaccine?

Federal health programs such as Vaccines for Children (VFC) will cover the HPV vaccine. The VFC program provides free vaccines to children and teens under 19 years of age, who are either uninsured, Medicaid-eligible, American Indian, or Alaska Native. There are over 45,000 sites that provide VFC vaccines, including hospitals, private clinics, and public clinics. The VFC Program also allows children and teens to get VFC vaccines through Federally Qualified Health Centers or Rural Health Centers, if their private health insurance does not cover the vaccine.

Some states also provide free or low-cost vaccines at public health department clinics to people without health insurance coverage for vaccines.

The HPV vaccine is given through a series of three shots over a 6-month period. The second and third doses should be given 2 and 6 months apart.

Q. Can HPV and its associated diseases be treated?

There is no treatment for HPV. But there are treatments for the health problems that HPV can cause, such as genital warts, cervical cell changes, and cancers of the cervix, vulva, vagina and anus.

By age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection. About 6.2 million Americans get a new genital HPV infection each year.

Q. Should females be screened before getting vaccinated?

No. Females do not need to get an HPV test or Pap test to find out if they should get the vaccine. An HPV test or a Pap test can tell that a woman may have HPV, but these tests cannot tell the specific HPV type(s) that a woman has. Even females with one HPV type could get protection from the other vaccine HPV types they have not yet acquired.

Q. Will sexually active females benefit from the vaccine?

Females who are sexually active may also benefit from the vaccine. But they may get less benefit from the vaccine since they may have already acquired one or more HPV type(s) covered by the vaccine. Few young women are infected with all four of these HPV types. So they would still get protection from those types they have not acquired. Currently, there is no test available to tell if a female has had any or all of these four HPV types.

Recommendation: The HPV vaccine is recommended for 11-12 year-old girls, and can be given to girls as young as 9. The vaccine is also recommended for 13-26 year-old girls/women who have not yet received or completed the vaccine series.

Q. Why is the HPV vaccine only recommended for females ages 9 to 26?

The vaccine has been widely tested in 9-to-26 year-old girls/women. But research on the vaccine’s safety and efficacy has only recently begun with women older than 26 years of age.

The FDA will consider licensing the vaccine for these women when there is research to show that it is safe and effective for them.

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