HPV vaccine released

Due to aggressive advertising over the past few months, many people have noticed the television commercials urging women to “tell someone” about Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that is the number one cause of cervical cancer among women. A recent study indicates that one in every four women, ages 14 to 59, has HPV. Although HPV clears on its own for most women, for others the virus lingers and eventually causes cervical cancer. On average, an estimated 11,150 women in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cervical cancer each year; 3,670 of those women eventually die from the ailment. Last June, the pharmaceutical company Merck released an HPV vaccination, called Gardasil, for women of ages nine to 26. The vaccine has been tested to protect people against two of the four main strains of HPV, although there are dozens of smaller strains of the virus. Though Gardasil has stopped HPV from developing into cervical cancer, the vaccine’s effectiveness is being critiqued, as is the idea of requiring girls to become vaccinated at a young age in several states. However, it is currently available to all who wish to become vaccinated. Due to HPV’s significant effect on teens, high schools around the nation have begun to integrate information about the virus into health courses. Ames High’s health program’s disease prevention unit has included discussion about HPV for years, and now also includes information about Gardasil. The health department’s awareness of HPV has kept students informed about recent developments, such as the vaccination, and has allowed them to determine their opinions about Gardasil. “I’m definitely getting the vaccine,” senior Erin Bagnall said. “I don’t understand why people wouldn’t. If it can prevent cervical cancer then it’s definitely worth it. Even if nothing happens, we don’t lose anything by getting the vaccination.” While it seems as though many females in the U.S. would volunteer to receive the vaccination on their own, the debate about requiring every sixth grade girl attending public school to become vaccinated has taken over the nation. Texas has passed a law regulating required vaccinations. Maryland is debating a similar law. Opponents claim, however, that forcing Gardasil on teenagers violates some moral values. People might not wish to become dependent on medicine, or might feel that 12 years is too young an age to become vaccinated. It could also force a financial burden on people with health insurance policies that don’t cover the vaccination. “I’m a health teacher, so of course I wish to promote healthy lives for all females through this vaccination. I actually believe that it is morally wrong for students to not learn and protect themselves from such diseases,” Ames High Health teacher Kimberly Burnett said. “However, a problem that comes with the vaccination is the high expense of each shot in the series.” Burnett was referencing the fact that Gardasil is a three-shot series, each dose costing anywhere from $120 to $180. Although some health insurance plans may cover the majority of the cost, most plans cover only a limited portion, if any. Though the HPV vaccine does not have the full support of the nation, the vaccination process is well underway. Currently the vaccination is offered in medical clinics only. There is a chance Gardasil may be administered in schools if the vaccination requirement passes. “The Story County Medical Center sponsored the Hepatitis shots given at the Ames Middle School a few years ago,” Ames High Nurse Monica Behning said. “[Unofficially speaking], if grant money comes through, Story County Medical could possibly offer the vaccinations at Ames schools themselves.”