A number of Virginia schools administer the HPV vaccine on their campuses, but once again this year the University of Mary Washington will not be one of them.
UMW women will also find birth control more difficult to obtain as the school has raised the cost of oral contraceptives by 300 percent.
In June 2006, the Food and Drug Administration approved the sale of Gardasil, a vaccine that protects young women from HPV, a virus that causes cervical cancer and genital warts.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that all young women between the ages of 9 and 26 be vaccinated.
Dr. Paul Thomas Riley, who became the campus physician full time last February, says he will continue to write prescriptions for female students to receive the vaccine at area pharmacies.
“It is hard to consider bringing the vaccine on campus because it is so expensive,” he said.
Female students will also face an increase in the cost of women’s care on campus this year. The price of oral contraceptives rose from $3 for one month’s supply last year to $12 for one month’s supply this year.
Even though the cost of oral contraceptives has increased sharply, the cost on campus still remains considerably lower than the retail price at pharmacies.
In addition, the school has raised the cost of women’s health examinations, which include a breast exam, pelvic exam and Pap test from $45 last year to $55 this year, an increase of 22 percent.
A number of other campuses around Virginia, such as Christopher Newport University and the University of Virginia both offer Gardasil to their female students on campus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 50 percent of women diagnosed with Human Papillomavirus are within 20 and 24 years of age, an age group that overwhelmingly represents college students.
According to Riley, the cost of the HPV vaccine is about $120 per shot for 3 shots at a $360 total. Riley says the health center does not have the money in its budget to support bringing the vaccine on campus.
Riley says he encourages any female student interested in receiving the vaccine to make an appointment with the health center where they will be given a prescription for the vaccine along with a list of local pharmacies that will administer it – a list that does not include the nearby Giant or CVS, where pharmacists confirmed they do not carry the vaccine.
Students, especially those from out-of-state, say they feel that the vaccine should be made available on campus.
Junior Amanda Taub of Long Island has received all three shots of the vaccine but admits that it was difficult to plan her appointments around school.
“Since you have to get the shot in specific increments I planned when I would get it around school breaks,” she said. “I got the shots from my doctor at home so I had to make sure I could get home for each shot. It would have been more convenient to have it on campus or at least in the area because I am here more than I am at home.”
One thing UMW does offer female students, but that is not available at some other schools including Christopher Newport University and Longwood University, is the so-called “morning-after pill,” Plan B.
Despite its availability at local drug stores, Riley believes that it is the responsibility of the health center to continue to provide that option to students.
Over-the-counter, Plan B costs $46.99 at Giant and $44.99 at CVS, but only $25 on campus.
Linda Timmes Ross, the health center’s nurse practitioner and director of women’s health services, urges that a student get emergency contraception as soon as possible, wherever that may be, since the effectiveness of Plan B decreases the longer you wait to take it.