This semester, students will be able to get not only soda and chips from vending machines on campus, but also pharmaceutical products including Plan B, pregnancy tests and condoms. The Cornell Health lobby now hosts a 24/7 pharmaceutical supplies vending machine, which opened on July 21.
“24/7 access to self-care supplies, including sexual health products, can help prevent and treat infection and illness and reduce the likelihood of unplanned pregnancy,” Chris Payne, senior director of Cornell Health wrote in an email to The Sun. “Access to care is key in supporting all dimensions of student health and well-being.”
The machine is located just inside the Ho Plaza entrance of Cornell Health and provides 24/7 access to emergency contraception and self-care supplies such as hand sanitizer, tissues and various non-prescription medications. Free COVID-19 antigen tests are also available for students.
A “Read Before You Buy” information sheet posted on the machine includes two QR codes which provide users with information about the different types of emergency contraceptives.
The supplies are available to Cornell students, faculty, staff and visitors. In the near future, Cornell Health plans to also add various self-care products to existing “Vengo” machines located in residential spaces across campus and managed by the Cornell Store.
Credit cards, debit cards and Apple Pay are all accepted forms of payment for the machine. Product prices range from free to $45. All available products and prices are listed below.
|Advil 200mg Ibuprofen Tablets||$7.40|
|Banana Boat Sunscreen Mini||$2|
|Band-Aid Flexible Fabric||$1.50|
|Clif Energy Bar||$2|
|Emergen-C 1000mg Vitamin C Packet||$2|
|Flonase Allergy Relief||$19.50|
|Flowflex COVID-19 Antigen Home Test||Free|
|Gas Relief Tablets||$4.35|
|Geri Care Anti-Diarrheal Tablets||$4.80|
|Leader Allergy Relief||$5|
|Leader Eye Drops||$7|
|Leader Pregnancy Test||$5|
|Leader Urinary Pain Relief||$6|
|Lubricant Eye Drops||$6.65|
|Mucinex 600mg Tablets||$13.50|
|Plan B One-Step||$45|
|Pocket Tissues||50 cents|
|Purell Hand Sanitizer||$1|
|Triple Antibiotic Ointment||$6.90|
|Trojan ENZ Condoms||$3|
|Trojan Treasure Pack Condoms||$5|
|Tylenol Extra Strength||$2|
Each item in the vending machine has been selected based on the likelihood of sale or utilization among the Cornell community, according to the Cornell Health website. Cornell Health offers a survey for community members to offer suggestions or feedback regarding the products available.
At least 39 colleges in 17 states have enacted emergency contraception vending machines on campuses, according to a USA Today report from July 22.
PPGA decided to advocate for Plan B vending machines in order to provide access to emergency contraception — which is more effective when taken earlier — on campus at all times since Cornell Health has restricted hours and is not open on weekends.
After conversations with Cornell Health, the PPGA decided to collect survey responses to determine community perspectives surrounding potential vending machines.
Over the fall 2022 semester, the PPGA surveyed over 700 members of the Cornell community and found that 53.3 percent of respondents have previously acquired emergency contraception for themselves or others and that 90.3 percent responded that they would feel “somewhat comfortable” or “very comfortable” obtaining emergency contraception, for themselves or others, at a Cornell Health-operated vending machine.
The PPGA — along with Levy and co-presidents of PPGA Katherine Esterl ’24 and Taisa Strouse ’24 — sponsored Student Assembly Resolution 20 which urged the University to implement multi-unit vending machines with nonprescription health care supplies, including contraception.
The resolution was unanimously passed by the S.A. on Thursday, Feb. 9. The University Assembly passed Resolution 5 and the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly passed Resolution 7 as their version of the resolution.
President Martha Pollack approved of Resolution 20 in an email response to the S.A. on March 7.
Esterl ’24 said the resolution was a resounding success due to the collaboration between student groups, the S.A. and Cornell Health.
“When [the idea for the vending machines] began as a conversation a few months ago, [it] was something that seemed like it wasn’t going to be funded very easily,” Esterl said. “But with student advocacy, with [the] Student Assembly and with building relationships with people at Cornell Health, we were able to make it happen. So I think it maybe was a good confirmation for people that working through the Student Assembly can be one way to support positive change for reproductive health care on campus.”
Other Reproductive Healthcare Resolutions
On Feb. 10, President Pollack rejected S.A. Resolution 15 to employ an M.D. gynecologist, arguing that Cornell Health’s primary care clinicians are trained in gynecological services. According to Cornell Health’s website, there are five staffers associated with “GYN/women’s health.”
On May 4, the S.A. unanimously approved Resolution 48, which proposed that Cornell make medicated abortion, or abortion pills, available to students on campus.
The resolution was inspired by recent New York state legislation requiring all the State University of New York and the City University of New York campuses to provide access to medicated abortions, according to Patrick Kuehl ’24, president of the S.A. The S.A. felt Cornell was part of the SUNY system in some regard and should thus provide similar accessibility, Kuehl said.
President Pollack responded to the resolution by clarifying that although Cornell is not mandated to adhere to the legislation, Cornell sufficiently meets the standards of the policy by providing information about, and referrals to, authorized providers of medication abortion in Ithaca. The level of specialty care required through the legislation exists at Ithaca’s Planned Parenthood, which is accessible from Cornell through TCAT bus routes.
“President Pollack’s response stated that, yes, Cornell students have access to medication abortions, because they have access to Planned Parenthood, which is downtown,” Kuehl said. “That is still kind of an unanswered question for us. And we would like to do more research into whether that’s accurate.”
Kuehl said that he was particularly concerned about whether the number of staff and level of infrastructure at the Planned Parenthood in Ithaca sufficiently meet the demands of the number of Cornell students the location services.
Strouse said that she was excited about the outcome of the Plan B vending machine resolution and hopes the University continues to keep the conversation open regarding greater reproductive health care measures on campus.
“I think the University should continue to make its position [clear] on the idea that reproductive health care is health care, and it should be accessible to everyone,” said Strouse. “And [the University should] not just make that position clear, but also take action to further that position within their own community… It’s a responsibility of the University to make reproductive health care accessible to all of its students.”