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Availability of HPV Vaccine Limited by High Costs, Inadequate Insurance

High costs and minimal insurance coverage are limiting pediatricians’ and gynecologists’ administration of Gardasil, the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine that reduces the risk of cervical cancer. According to a report by the Washington Post, insurance companies do not pay doctors enough to cover the expense of buying and administering the vaccine. Some insurance companies reimburse doctors only $2 more per dose than the purchase cost, which is not a sufficient amount to cover the cost of stocking and administering the vaccine to patients.

As the lowest-paid specialists, pediatricians are particularly affected. Doctors must choose to administer Gardasil at a loss, to provide the vaccine only to patients whose insurance companies cover the costs adequately, or to not offer the vaccine at all. The Post reports that some doctors ask patients to fill a Gardasil prescription at a pharmacy and return to the office for their shots, which becomes problematic for patients whose insurance only covers the vaccine when provided directly by a doctor.

The Journal of the American Medical Association (AMA) reports that over one-third of American women are infected with the human papillomavirus (HPV) by the age of 24. Gardasil, which is the first immunization against a sexually transmitted disease recommended for children, prevents cervical cancer and genital warts caused by HPV types 6,11,16, and 18. The complete treatment comprises three shots, for a total cost around $400.

Sources:

Washington Post 5/1/07; Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report 5/1/07; Feminist Daily News Wire 3/1/07, 6/30/06