September 21, 2016

New Campaign Will Donate Vaccine With Every Cornell HPV Immunization

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The Worth a Shot campaign, which encourages students to get vaccinated against human papillomavirus (HPV), will debut at Cornell on Oct. 1. For every vaccination issued, an immunization shot will be given to a child in need.

HPV is a sexually transmitted disease prevalent among teenagers and young adults. The sickness is associated with more than 150 related viruses, some of which cause cancer, according to Beth Kutler, the director of women’s and sexual health services at Gannett Health Services.

“HPV is so common that nearly all sexually active men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives,” she said.

Kutler added that she believes vaccination is important because it both protects and prevents HPV transmission. After a three-dose series, the vaccination will help curb contraction of the majority of HPV-related cancers and other diseases.

Sarah Fortna ’17, the creator of the campaign, said she began the planning process this April when she contacted the United Nations Foundation’s Shot@Life campaign to develop a strategy. She added that the vision for the campaign began to take off once the Cornell Women’s Resource Center offered its support in August.

Fortna said she took action because she had “a realization of [about the] misconceptions [of] dealing with HPV, such as that the vaccine is reserved for those who were born female.”

She also said she wanted to raise awareness about the disease and centralize public health-conscious groups and individuals.

“This campaign is about making sexual health a priority for Cornell,” Fortna said. “We want to raise awareness of the prevalence of HPV and how necessary and effective it is for people of all gender identities to be vaccinated.”

Prior to entering Cornell, students are told that the HPV vaccination is recommended, but not required to attend the University. Gannett has witnessed an “increase in the number of students who were vaccinated as children,” but it has no way of knowing exactly how many students were vaccinated, according to Kutler.

“We hope for a great turnout at each of the clinics, an increase in the vaccination rates of Cornell students and a heightened awareness of the risks of HPV on campus,” said Cassidy Clark ’17, an executive board member of the Women’s Resource Center.

To promote the campaign, the WRC has created a Facebook page called “Worth a Shot,” where they share pictures from their photo campaign and event pages for the clinics. The WRC has also reached out to a number of organizations on campus to spread the word.

“[The WRC has] presented about the campaign and the risks of HPV at fraternities [and] sororities,” Clark said. She added that the WRC has partnered with groups like the Vaccine Education Initiative, Student Assembly, Consent Ed and Planned Parenthood Generation Action to help advertise on social media.

For every vaccination administered to a Cornell student, the Women’s Resource Center will make a donation to the UNF’s Shot@Life campaign, which will send a childhood immunization to a resource-poor area to give children access to lifesaving preventive interventions, according to Fortna.

“The vaccines [the UNF supplies] are routine vaccines that are required in the United States, the ones that many in the U.S. had the privilege of receiving in our early years without any financial concern as they are entirely covered through health insurance,” Fortna said.

The Worth a Shot campaign’s first clinic will be held on Saturday, Oct. 1 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The vaccination is free for students on Cornell’s Student Health Plan as well as most other insurance plans.