Free vaccine offered to fight common sexually transmitted disease

Registered nurse Heather Lee vaccinates a patient at the Mesa County Health Department.



Men and women between the ages of 19 and 26 can save hundreds of dollars on potential health care costs and fend off disease by taking advantage of a free vaccine offered at the Mesa County Health Department.

The Gardasil vaccine, or the human papillomavirus vaccine, protects against the papillomavirus, the most common sexually transmitted infection in the nation.

The vaccine can ward off infectious genital warts in men. It does the same for women and has been proven to prevent cervical cancer and precancerous genital lesions in women.

Thanks to grant funding, a limited number of the recommended three-round series of vaccines are being offered for free at the Health Department to men and women between the ages of 19 and 26. Each round of the vaccines for people in other age groups is $14.50. Three rounds of vaccines normally cost $456, according to the Health Department. The vaccine is available to girls and boys ages 9 and older. Health professionals generally encourage children to receive the vaccine before they become sexually active.

“Once you’re exposed to it, you can’t take it back,” said Heather Lee, a registered nurse at the Health Department.

The vaccines do not cover all of the approximately 100 strains of HPV. Gardasil, which is manufactured by Merck, guards against four types of HPV: 6, 11, 16 and 18.

Two of those types of HPV are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancer cases.

Three separate vaccinations are recommended over a six-month span to offer patients the most protection. However, receiving one or two of the doses can help with protection, Lee said.

Vaccines are limited and distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Patients who take advantage of the program in the near future probably will be able to get all three doses, Lee said.

“It’s a really great opportunity,” she said. “We just want to get it out the door.”

More than 20 million people in the nation are infected with HPV, and more than 6 million people become infected each year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the use of Gardasil for girls and women to prevent cervical cancer, and last fall the agency approved the drug’s use for men to ward against sexually transmitted diseases.


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