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Sunday, June 4, 2023


Lack of awareness for HPV vaccine concerns health professionals

As of March, more than 70 million Americans were infected with human papillomavirus, the most common and second-most deadly sexually transmitted disease in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Gardasil, the vaccine designed to prevent HPV, is available in three doses that together cost up to $585. Walgreens pharmacist Mai Nguyen said that despite the importance of Gardasil, the cost gets in the way of young people when making a decision.

“I have worked here for years and never had a patient come in for the vaccine,” Nguyen said.

Mariana Arocha, a Industrial Engineering senior, said she only found out about Gardasil when it was required for a United States residency application.

“I will always say yes to the vaccine. This is something we want to attack before it becomes an issue.”

Lindsay BarberUH Health Center Associate Director

“I was 12 or 13 when I took the shot,” Arocha said. “The nurse said it was one of the requirements to send my residence papers, but never explained why it was important.”

The lack of awareness can also affect the demographics of students who have not taken Gardasil. Photography senior Emily walling wishes she had taken the vaccine when she was younger.

“I was honestly just not aware of it. But if I knew more about it, I would have gotten it, especially at a younger age,” said Walling. “I haven’t had the vaccine myself, but I’m not opposed to it. I think it’s better to take precautionary measures rather than take the chance of getting infected later on.”

The UH Health Center provides Gardasil immunizations for $169 per injection or at no out-of-pocket cost for students enrolled in the UH Student Health Insurance Plan. Associate Director Lindsay Barber said the health center gave 346 doses of Gardasil — 250 to female patients and 96 to males — between Sept. 1, 2013 and Aug. 31, 2014.

“I will always say yes to the vaccine,” Barber said. “This is something we want to attack before it becomes an issue.”

Barber said that anyone under 27 years of age should get the Gardasil immunization. The vaccine is most effective for people in that age range.

The effectiveness of Gardasil is not indisputable. A female student who has chosen to remain unidentified was diagnosed with HPV, though she took Gardasil.

“I got the vaccine in high school, before I was sexually active, because I thought it would protect me against HPV,” she said. “What I didn’t know is that it only protects against the four most dangerous strains of HPV — that is, the ones that are more likely to cause cancer.”

The student, who was diagnosed with one of the many strains that are not covered by the vaccine, said she was informed by her doctor that any signs of cancer would be detected early enough that it should not be life-threatening, but she is “not exactly comforted by this.”

“The best advice I have to ladies worried about HPV or really any health problem is to visit a doctor regularly, preferably the same doctor so that he or she will notice if something becomes abnormal,” she said.

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