About 20 million Americans are infected with human papillomavirus, or HPV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
And the number is growing – more than six million cases of genital HPV are diagnosed each year.
But Merck & Co., a pharmaceutical company, has created a way to decrease the chance of getting HPV for women with a new HPV vaccine, called GARDASIL. This vaccine has a 70 percent success rate guarding against cervical cancer and a 90 percent success rate against genital warts, which HPV can cause.
“This vaccine is meant to protect people by preventing HPV. If HPV can be prevented, the chances of it leading to cervical cancer will decrease,” said Lisa Duggan, immunization coordinator and infection control nurse at Hartshorn Health Service.
The FDA approved the vaccine in June.
The American Cancer Society estimated in 2006 that about 9,710 new cases of cervical cancer were diagnosed in the United States and that about 3,700 women will die from this cancer.
HPV is a common virus that men and women contract by having any kind of sexual activity involving genital contact with someone who has HPV. It is possible to contract HPV without having intercourse.
However, not all individuals who have the virus show any signs or symptoms.
“For many people, their body’s defense system fights off the HPV and they may not even know they had it,” said Duggan. “But having no symptoms with HPV is worse than having genital warts because having HPV with no signs can lead to cervical cancer.”
As of now, the vaccine is only given to females ages 9 to 26 because younger age groups are showing a better response to the vaccine than older age groups, Duggan said. Their blood levels, known as markers, determine their reaction to the vaccine and this helps decipher which age group is reacting better to the vaccine.
Many are happy that the vaccine has been developed.
“I think people need to be more aware of everything,” said Liz Evans, a sophomore Spanish major. “Any type of preventive measure is a good thing.”
The new vaccine is given to patients in a series of three shots. The first dose can be given at whatever time the patient decides, but the second dose must be given two months after the first dose and the third dose must be given six months after the first dose.
According to the patient information sheet about GARDASIL, it is extremely important for the patient to receive all three doses to receive the full benefits from the vaccine.
In order to get the vaccine, on or off campus, it will cost about $420 for the series of three shots, which is about $140 per shot.
The new vaccine helps protect against type six, 11, 16 and 18 of HPV. Other vaccines are being developed to target the deadliest types of HPV.
Even though the HPV vaccine is new, it still has many females here at CSU calling to ask about when and where they can get the vaccine, Duggan said. The vaccine also has some fine-tuning to undergo, such as targeting women older than 26, and men in general, before everyone can be included.
“Before I would consider getting the vaccine, I would like to know more about it and if it applies to me, because as of now I picture it more as a STD thing and I am not at risk for that,” said Carrie Simpson, senior exercise and science major, about why the HPV vaccine may not be right for her.
Students can find information about the vaccine and receive all three doses of it on campus at Hartshorn Health Service.
Staff writer Colleen Timothy can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Facts Box about HPV vaccine:
Who can get it? All females ages 9 to 26 years old.
What do you need to know before getting the vaccine? Even sexually active or previously infected students can get the vaccine, as they may not know which type of HPV they had, and the vaccine protects against the four major types.
Where can you get the HPV vaccine? It’s as simple as going to Hartshorn Health Service, open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and asking about it. The health center takes walk-ins as well as appointments. It can also give the next shot in the series if the first or second shot has been received already.
How much will it cost? The series of shots cost about $420, which breaks down to about $140.00 per shot.
Other vaccinations available at Hartshorn Health Service:
Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR)
Hepatitis A and B combination (Twinrix)
Influenza (seasonal, usually from October to March)
Tetanus: TD (Tetanus, diphtheria)
Tetanus: TDaP (Tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis)
Typhoid (oral prescription by appointment with travel nurse)
Varicella (chicken pox)
All vaccines (except oral typhoid) are available in the immunization department Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:00 p.m. No appointment is necessary.