Few college students would pay $495 for three shots in the arm. But that is the price every UC Davis undergraduate must pay to get HPV vaccinations at the Student Health and Wellness Center. Though 50 percent of people will get HPV during their lifetimes, the undergraduate Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) doesn’t cover the effective vaccine. This lack of coverage is not only irresponsible – it is dangerous.
HPV can lead to anal, penile, cervical, vaginal, head and neck cancers, as well as genital warts. While the immune system can fight off 90 percent of HPV cases, the other 10 percent will lead to cancer or warts. HPV is an especially nasty STD because it cannot be completely prevented by condom use; the virus can spread via any genital to genital contact or oral sex.
College is the last chance for many people to get the HPV vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that men and women get the vaccine before becoming sexually active, and the vaccine is not approved for men or women over 26 years old. According to the CDC, the optimum age for vaccination is around 11 or 12 years old. Because the vaccine was approved for women in 2006 and for men 2009, many college students did not have a chance to get the immunization at a younger age.
Students actually have a hand in deciding what SHIP covers. The SHIP committee, which votes on adding benefits, consists of student representatives and administrators. Student representatives are in charge of proposing new benefits. In an Aggie article published March 8, Chuck Auchterlonie, business services manager for Student Health Services, said students have not proposed HPV coverage during the last two years.
Perhaps the SHIP committee’s lack of priorities is due to misinformation about the effectiveness of the vaccine. Though the vaccine (under brand name Gardasil) does not protect against all strains of HPV, it does protect against the strains that cause 70 percent of cervical cancer cases and 90 percent of genital warts.
Those are pretty good odds that a person with the HPV vaccine will live a healthier life. The SHIP committee needs to think ahead.