Despite students’ calls for change last year, the Student Health Center’s policy regarding the human papillomavirus vaccine, which requires students to purchase the vaccine elsewhere, remains in effect today.
The HPV vaccine, Gardasil, was the subject of debate in late 2007 when the center opted to change its policy – the health center decided not to purchase the vaccine in advance for students as it had initially. The health center cited the high cost of the vaccine and the lack of reimbursement by many insurance companies for the change. The vaccine, administered in three doses over a six-month period, costs approximately $125 per shot. The Student Health Center also charges a fee for each injection visit. The policy does allow the health center to write prescriptions for the vaccine as well as administer it.
Gardasil, which was developed in part by the Medical Center researchers and approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2006, is recommended for girls ages nine to 26. It protects against four types of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection, that cause the majority of cervical cancers and genital warts. According to the Center for Disease Control, there are 10,800 cases of HPV-associated cervical cancers each year.
Under the current policy, female students must receive a prescription for the vaccine, which they then fill at a pharmacy and bring to the health center for the injection.
Student Health Center Director James Marsh said that he understood students’ frustrations with this policy, but added that since the change last year the system appears to be working well.
“Most students understand that if we had the option of purchasing the vaccine directly for them, we would, but they are willing to work with the present system in order to get the vaccine,” he said. “The present system is also a bit more work for the health center as well, so we understand the inconvenience.”
Some students and campus organizations, however, feel that the health center should sell the vaccine despite its high cost.
Samantha Demetriou (COL ’09), a member of H*yas for Choice, is dissatisfied with the current policy.
“I believe that while this policy is not as bad as it could be – the university could refuse to even administer the vaccine – it really should be improved,” she said. “I honestly feel that it is a disservice to the students.”
Demetriou is not the only student who is upset about the health center’s policy. Last year, Greg Baltz (SFS ’10) and Juliana MacPherson (COL ’08) unsuccessfully applied for a Reimagine Georgetown Grant – a grant sponsored by The Corp, the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and The Hoya, aimed at improving the university’s undergraduate experience using creative methods – to temporarily pay for students’ shots. Demetriou added that since the grant failed, she has hesitated to broach the issue again.
arsh said that before the health center can change its current policy, a change in funding mechanisms for purchasing pharmaceuticals must occur.
Currently, Cornell, Harvard and American Universities are among those that do administer the vaccine. Beginning in 2007, Harvard has offered the vaccine at a reduced cost for students enrolled in its health plan who came to Harvard before the vaccine was made available.
As for Cornell, Nianne VanFleet, associate director for Nursing and Clinical Services at Cornell’s Gannett Health Services, said that most Cornell students do not pay for the vaccine and added that the health center does not charge fees for injection visits, as Georgetown does.
Correction: In the print edition, this article incorrectly implies that the Reimagine Georgetown Grant is sponsored only by The Corp. It is also sponsored by the Georgetown University Alumni and Student Federal Credit Union and The Hoya.