HPV vaccine costs down

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Beginning this academic year, Brown and Harvard universities will offer the human papillomavirus vaccine to students for $25 a shot – a 40 percent decrease in price at Brown from last year and an even steeper decrease at Harvard. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has also lowered the cost of the vaccine for students, according to David Rosenthal, director of Harvard University Health Services.

Students enrolled in Harvard’s Blue Cross Blue Shield plan will be able to purchase each shot in the three-shot series for a co-pay of $25, instead of having to pay the full $154, according to a Sept. 25 article in the Harvard Crimson. Brown has lowered its co-pay from $40 to $25 per shot for students under 26 years old who are enrolled in the University-sponsored health insurance plan.

Edward Wheeler, director of Brown Health Services, told The Herald in an e-mail that roughly 40 percent of the student body is covered by the University health insurance plan and will be able to take advantage of the price reduction.

The HPV vaccine, a three-shot series given over six months, prevents four types of HPV, a sexually transmitted infection that can lead to cervical cancer.

Rosenthal, one of the administrators responsible for the co-pay reduction at Harvard, said the university intentionally declined to lower the price immediately due to uncertainty about demand for the vaccine.

“When we began to see that this vaccine is being used … we felt (the best way) to get this in the hands of as many students as possible was to bring the price down,” Rosenthal said.

Rosenthal said Harvard’s health services division has held two clinics since prices were reduced and over 100 students attended each. Harvard began administering the vaccine to undergraduates under the age of 26 in October 2006.

The vaccine has been popular at Brown as well. Health Services began offering the vaccine in November 2006 and has since administered over 800 shots, Wheeler wrote.

Rosenthal said Harvard students lobbied for reduced prices last year. The Harvard College Women’s Center and 13 other organizations led a campaign to publicize the benefits of the HPV vaccine in an attempt to pressure HUHS into subsidizing the cost of the vaccine, according to the Crimson article.

Co-pays at Harvard have been reduced for a two-year span ending July 2009, Rosenthal said. In that time, most freshmen arriving at Harvard will likely already have received the vaccine in high school or through other means, he said.

Rosenthal said administrators gave the program the go-ahead when they realized the university had the resources to lower the price for the two-year span.

The cost of the insurance plan will not rise as a result of the price reduction, he said.

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