Tuesday, October 14, 2008

REPORTER BLOG: 80% is an Incredible Chance

by Alex Moorhead

I covered a story on the HPV vaccination shot called Gardisil. The story was focused around the high price of the shot and how that is affecting the number of young women deciding to get it. What I found disturbing about this is the statistic showed that about 80% of women will have HPV, by the time they are 50 years old. I remember hearing about HPV when I was a senior in high school but not hearing the severity of it.

It seems Inevitable
After interviewing a nurse who worked at the Athens City-County Health Department and finding out more information about Gardisil and HPV, all I could think about was how unfair the price is to women who want to protect themselves but can’t afford to. Then I remembered trying to get the shot from my doctor after seeing commercials promoting that I could be “One less,” victim of cervical cancer. That's the manufacturer’s marketing slogan. I remember thinking the commercial made it seem like the easiest and smartest thing to do was to get vaccinated. After seeing the price my mom said it wasn’t worth it, but is it? Should women sacrifice around $350 to avoid becoming one of these statistics? Back then, out of all my friends only one of them got the series of shots.

But it will be Possible
Right now there are a few programs for people who can’t afford the vaccine or their insurance won’t cover it. It seems like these would be very effective programs for many women because not many insurance companies cover Gardisil. However, I know from experience that it didn’t help me coming from a middle class family. I am concerned because, although the programs are helping, I don't think it is enough. While I was interviewing the nurse, Sherrie Lawson, she spoke about future plans to fix this problem that I didn't have time to include in my story.

She said local county health departments are cooperating to create a “north rural” health department that will offer the Gardisil vaccine for free to all children ages 11 to 18 no matter what their financial standing is. It’s not universal health care but it is a start. Lawson said she hoped the project will be finished by the end of this year.

Because of People like Sherrie
I surprised Sherrie when I just stopped by the clinic for an interview. I was hoping that she would be well-informed about this topic since I didn’t really give her a heads up that I was coming. I remembered her from a previous story in which she was very willing to speak with us. I was amazed by all the information she knew about this and the passion she spoke with when explaining about the project described above. I could tell by her zeal that she felt that her purpose in life was to simply help others. As I listened I couldn't help thinking of how lucky we are that there are people who devote their lives to helping us and doing what they can to keep us healthy.

So have Hope
When Sherrie told me about the new clinic and other HPV vaccines that are in the process of being approved by the FDA, I figured that Appalachian Ohio isn't the only place trying to make this vaccination more accessible to teens. Eventually, in my opinion, the Gardisil shot or other shots like it will become part of general immunizations when children are getting shots for school because of the overwhelming statistics. Or at least I hope so; so we can all really become "One Less."

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