Vaccine short-circuits STD complications
In June the Food and Drug Administration licensed the first vaccine developed to prevent cervical cancer caused by certain types of the human papillomavirus (HPV).
Unfortunately, Truckee and North Tahoe residents can get the Gardasil vaccine from just a few local physicians, with insurance coverage unlikely.
“We’re carrying [Gardasil] because we want to offer the protection to our patients,” said Tara Dolan, medical assistant for Dr. Chris Richards in Truckee. “If it can prevent what it says it can, it will be a great step for women to take.”
Gardasil protects against four types of HPV that are responsible for 70 percent of all cervical cancers and 90 percent of genital warts, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We need to get the word out a little more,” said Yolanda Lopez, certified medical assistant with Truckee Tahoe Medical Group.
The vaccine is recommended for females 9 to 26 years years old.
The Placer County Community clinic in Kings Beach is not carrying the vaccine, said physician’s assistant Danny Buchanan, because it is not yet covered by state-funded programs. Planned Parenthood in Tahoe City is not carrying the vaccine either.
Truckee Tahoe Medical Group doctors do not keep Gardasil in the office but are still speaking about the vaccine with their patients. Additionally the medical facility will order Gardasil on request, but the patient is responsible for paying in full for the medication.
“[The vaccine] is very pricey. Insurance is not covering it at this time,” said Lopez.
Gardasil is a series of three injections and costs more than $400 in total.
Even though the vaccine seems expensive, the costs of treating human papillomavirus or cervical cancer can be much higher, Dolan said.
According to the Center for Disease Control the HPV vaccination would save $15,000 to $25,000 per quality-adjusted life year, an index created to show cost-effectiveness of medical treatments.
Dolan said that a lot of insurance companies are finding ways to support the vaccine and thinks it will likely be the standard of care.
While HPV is strongly associated with cervical cancer, in more than 90 percent of cases the sexually transmitted infection will go away without treatment, according to the National Cancer Institute. Most HPV infections are asymptomatic, but it is of clinical and public health concern because of its association with one of the most common cancers in women worldwide.
When a woman becomes infected with certain types of HPV and does not clear the infection, abnormal cells can develop in the lining of the cervix.
HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Approximately 20 million people are currently affected, with 6.2 million new infections each year, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The American Cancer Society estimated in 2005 that there were over 10,000 new cervical cancer diagnoses and nearly 4,000 deaths.
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