Female students depending on the Student Health Center for their next Gardasil shot may soon have to look elsewhere.

Citing financial reasons, James Marsh, director of the Student Health Center, said that the center stopped purchasing the human papillomavirus vaccine, Gardasil, two weeks ago. He said, however, that the center will still prescribe and administer it to students as long they purchase it on their own.

“We are going to continue to offer the vaccine, but we’re not going to be able to purchase it for the students,” Marsh said.

The Gardasil vaccination costs $150 per shot. Three shots are administered over a span of six months.

Marsh said the university’s health plan and some other insurance plans had previously paid for the shots, but the companies’ reimbursements – usually between $100 and $115 per shot – fell short of actual costs, placing financial strain on the center.

Human papillomavirus is a sexually transmitted infection, some strains of which can cause cervical cancer. Gardasil, a vaccination against four strains of HPV, has been recommended by many physicians, but is only suitable for females between the ages of nine and 26.

Marsh said that, under the new system, the health center will write vaccine prescriptions for patients, but students will have to obtain Gardasil from a pharmacy. The pharmacy at the Georgetown University Hospital is one that stocks and dispenses large amounts of Gardasil.

According to Marsh, the center will administer the vaccine for an office visit fee that is usually covered by insurance companies. He said this office visit fee would probably cost $90 for a first-time patient and $55 for a returning patient.

Patients can often also be reimbursed for their purchase of Gardasil through their insurance companies.

Marsh said that, in an informal poll of health center colleagues at other universities and institutions, he found that Georgetown’s Student Health Center was the only one to have been purchasing Gardasil ahead of demand.

“It’s an extremely expensive vaccine, and insurances aren’t reimbursing enough. We were trying to help students get it, but we just can’t take the financial risk anymore,” Marsh said.

The Student Health Center began administering the vaccine in late October last year and stopped ordering the vaccine a little over two weeks ago. In the past year, Marsh said approximately 1,000 doses of the vaccine were administered.

“I understand it is causing a lot of anxiety. We’ve been sort of putting students on hold for a few weeks while we sort out the issue,” Marsh said. “We’re working on a system for allowing patients to get prescriptions for the vaccination and return for the injection with a minimal number of office visits,” Marsh said.

“We will be updating our Web site with information by the end of today,” Marsh also said on Monday. As of early Tuesday morning, the Web site had yet to be updated.

Jennifer Keuler (SFS ’09) said that, although she understands how expensive the vaccines are, she is disappointed with the Health Center’s decision.

“I think the vaccine is an amazing leap for women’s health and therefore I’m disappointed that the Student Health Center has decided not to carry it, especially since it was developed here at Georgetown,” she said.

Richard Schlegel, Academic Chair and Professor of the Pathology Department at the Medical Center, first led a team of researchers to create the vaccine, which was approved in 2006 by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

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