Cervical cancer vaccine in high demand on UF campus


Published: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 1, 2007 at 2:09 a.m.
Women have been lining up at the University of Florida Student Health Care Center to get what has become an unexpectedly popular item: the cervical cancer vaccine.
Several health officials felt success would be limited on campus because of the vaccine's high price tag. Instead, it's in high demand.
Almost 300 injections of the vaccine, called Gardasil, have been administered since it was first offered at the beginning of fall, said Jane Cullen, UF's associate director of nursing.
Three doses of the vaccine are administered over a six-month period at a total cost of $450.
Developed by pharmaceutical company Merck, the vaccine prevents the four most common strands of the human papillomavirus, commonly known as HPV.
HPV is a sexually transmitted disease passed on through genital contact.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it can cause cervical cancer and other less common genital cancers in women.
Registered Nurse Specialist Karen Williams said Merck's national advertising campaign has encouraged women to get the vaccine.
"The vaccine has been so popular because the commercials are a bit scary," Williams said. "I think they are doing a good job though because women of all ages and races are going out and getting vaccinated."
The new campaign, called One Less, encourages women who are eligible for the vaccine to begin their vaccination series and also to continue to see their doctor for regular health-care and screening.
Brittany, a UF undergraduate who asked that her last name not be used, said the One Less commercials caught her attention.
"I've had about five friends who have had HPV," Brittany said. "Getting the vaccine just helped get me peace of mind."
Her health insurance, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, covered the cost.
According to the disease-control center, insurance companies are moving to include, or have already included, the treatment in their coverage because the vaccine costs less than treating cervical cancer and HPV.
Students still have to pay full price at the UF clinic, Williams said.
However, the clinic has strongly promoted the vaccine on campus.
"When we were deciding to offer Gardasil, we thought it was important to promote it just like we promote the flu shot," she said.
Parents are also promoting the vaccine to their daughters, she said.
The clinic is constantly receiving calls from moms who want to know if the vaccine is being administered.
Carly Greene, a 19-year-old undergraduate, began the HPV series about a month ago along with her two sisters.
"My mom basically said, 'I'm going to take you all in to get vaccinated,'" Greene said. "And she did."
It's expected that the number of students getting the vaccine will continue to increase, Williams said.
"With time, I think this vaccine will become a routine immunization," she said.

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