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Stimulus Money Funds HPV Vaccine

March 19, 2009, 9:15 AM by Kelli Grant

Stimulus Money Funds HPV Vaccine
The free vaccine to prevent a sexually transmitted disease is still an option for thousands of 12-year-old girls in South Dakota.

Wednesday, when Governor Rounds approved the state's budget, he restored funding for the Gardasil Drug, also known as the HPV vaccine. The funding comes a result of federal stimulus dollars. 

Every year 25 women in South Dakota are diagnosed with cervical cancer and sadly each year nine lose their battle.  Just two years ago, the state began vaccinating girls between the ages of 11 and 18 for free. Last year, the state modified it so that only 12-year old girls could get it free of charge. 

Now that the Governor's signed the budget, the vaccine will still be available to the over 40,000 girls eligible. 

“It's the first cancer vaccine ever. And so you know it is very troubling that we have this great technology and this great vaccine and it probably won't be utilized much because it is expensive,” Dr. Maria Bell with Sanford Women’s Health said.

Out of pocket, the vaccine costs about $130 per dose and it takes three for it to be effective.

“Most insurance plans cover childhood immunizations, but they don't cover this. Or if they do cover it, it’s applied to their deductible,” Bell said.

Bell says if the funding wasn't there, many girls would go without, which could create a serious health problem.

“Cervical cancer is a disease of people without a voice. Its typically low income women so low income women don't have a political voice so it’s unfortunate,” said Bell.

Eliminating the funding would have freed up nearly $300,000 for the state's budget. But Bell says it's hard to put a price on preventing cancer, one that's tied to the sexually transmitted disease HPV.

“It also causes a lot of benign problems. Genital warts costs our society millions of dollars a year to treat them so there's a cost burden that 90 percent could be eliminated by doing this,” said Bell.

And because screening can't prevent the Human Papilloma Virus, Bell says the vaccine is needed to essentially save lives.

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