DeWeese offers HPV vaccine

Amber Wade

Insurance coverage varies at universities

The American Cancer Society estimates 11,270 women will be diagnosed with invasive cervical cancer in 2009 in the United States.

University Health Services offers female students the chance to protect themselves from being one of those diagnosed by offering the cervical cancer vaccine Gardasil.

Gardasil is a vaccine that protects against four kinds of human papillomavirus, two of which cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and two more that cause 90 percent of genital warts cases.

Kim Myford, nurse practitioner in the Women’s Clinic at DeWeese Health Center, wrote in an e-mail she would recommend women between the ages of 9 to 26 get the vaccine because it protects against HPV infections, which are very prevalent in sexually active individuals.

“Other institutions might not offer the vaccine because the vaccine is providing protection against a sexually transmitted infection,” Myford said. “Some individuals may not agree with the vaccine and feel that abstinence is a better choice.”

Myford said Gardasil is offered to all female patients who are eligible, and for those who are underinsured or do not have any insurance. The manufacturer, Merck, offers a financial assistance program.

The vaccine is given in a series of three injections, and each injection has a retail price of $125, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The vaccine has come under discussion recently because of some adverse reactions recipients of the injections have experienced.

“I do not think that the side effects are different than any other vaccine,” Myford said. “All vaccines have risks, but the benefit of receiving Gardasil outweighs the risk.

“Actually, the risks associated with Gardasil are significantly less than the risks associated with many other vaccines (including measles and flu).”

As of June 1, more than 14,000 incidences of adverse reactions were reported, according to the CDC. Out of these events, 7 percent were considered to be serious.

The CDC still recommends women get the vaccine, because there is no way to confirm that the vaccine was the definitive cause of the reaction.

“There are many universities in the U.S. that offer Gardasil to eligible students,” said Ali Kresge, global communications director for Merck vaccines and infectious diseases. “But, the insurance coverage varies greatly between the schools.”

Merck is also conducting studies to see if the vaccine is safe for use with men, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

Contact health reporter Amber Wade at [email protected].