National HPV debate sparks local interest

By Sara Gilgore

Contributing Writer

The ongoing discussion about whether young girls should be required to be vaccinated against the Human Papillomavirus (HPV), a controversial topic in the Sept. 12 GOP debate, has sparked interest among University students.

HPV is the virus responsible for 75 percent of cervical cancer cases in women and 90 percent of genital warts cases in men and women, as well as other diseases. Gardasil, the vaccine that protects against all four dangerous types of HPV, is administered three times in six months.

“People should be informed,” said Dr. Don Stechschulte, director of Student Health Services. “The vast majority of abnormal Pap smears we see are secondary to HPV.”

The virus is spread through genital contact, and most people, male and female, contract or carry the virus with no symptoms. Of the 40-plus types of HPV, four are problematic.

“Cervical cancer can affect relatively young people,” Stechschulte said. “The [preventative] care is basically routine Pap smears.”

Student Health Services does not currently offer the vaccine, but students are referred to the PA Health Department, Stechschulte said. Although the vaccination is ordinarily very expensive, it can be obtained there free of charge.

“[The vaccine] is a very good investment in health, versus the cost of treating a case of cervical cancer,” Stechschulte said.

People between the ages of nine and 26 are eligible for the vaccine, and some University students have been vaccinated.

“I got it when I was 15 because my pediatrician said it could lower my chances of getting certain types of cancers,” Mackenzie Glaze ’15 said. “I remember talking about it with my friends that were mixed between those who had received the shots and those who had not.”

“It had fairly recently come out when I got it and they were recommending it to everybody in our age group,” Emma Grahn ’12 said.

Grahn experienced bruises after all three of the shots, in addition to a rash after the last shot, but that was a risk she was willing to take, she said.

“That’s a possible side effect of any shot you get, required or not, and the benefits outweigh the risks,” Grahn said. “I think it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

There are always some risks associated with medicine, but vaccines can be extremely beneficial, Stechshulte said.

“Vaccines do work when looking at large populations,” he said. “It makes a huge difference if you take certain conditions off the table.”



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