HPV not included in RRCSA student health plan

RRC students looking to get the HPV vaccine will be paying out of their own pocket for it.The University of Winnipeg extended health benefits to include the coverage of the HPV vaccine for full time students.

The Red River College Students’ Association’s (RRCSA) Extended Health Plan does not cover any vaccines.

Maximillion Semchuk, a 23-year- old commerce industry sales and marketing student, said the vac- cine is something he has thought about, and it’s unfortunate the RRCSA isn’t covering it.

“When it comes to sexual health, I think the college does have the responsibility to make sure ev- eryone is covered for the vaccine if it’s something students are considering, ” Semchuk said.

Emeraude Kwilu, a 22-year-old electrical engineering student at RRC, said she was already vaccinated in school through a provincially-sponsored program given to girls in Grade 6.

The province of Manitoba announced it is expanding this program to include Grade 6 and some Grade 9 boys in response to recent discoveries men are also at high risk of developing different cancers from HPV.

The vaccine in general is suggested to anyone under the age of 26 and the province is extending the program to include boys in September next year.

While younger students will benefit, that means older men attending post-secondary probably aren’t vaccinated against HPV and they might need to play catch up.

Emily Epp, vice president internal affairs at the University of Winnipeg, said she worked on this project last year. She said U of W students now get 100 per cent coverage of the HPV vaccine under their health plan.

The University of Manitoba plan provides 80 per cent coverage with their student health plan, but did not respond to clarifications before press time on whether or not that coverage includes the HPV vaccine for men or women.

Semchuk said he thinks students are more inclined to get the vaccination if covered by their health plan due to the cost of the vaccine.

While it is up to each student to get the vaccina- tion, finances might not get in the way if they chose to do so.

Dr. Allen Kimelman is a physician at Our Own Health Centre, a Manitoba health clinic for gay and bisexual men. He said he’s pleased to see coverage of the vaccine expand to universities.

“It’s a good idea to vaccinate those that we can regardless of gender,” said Kimelman. Assuming people are taking the vaccine, Kimelman said it will likely have a positive effect on HPV rates in the future, given the clinical trials.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection. There are various types of HPV. Some strains can cause symptoms like genital warts and some types can lead to different forms of cancer.

The HPV vaccine prevents the vast majority of the colorectal and cervical cancers caused by the infection.

RRCSA President Benjamin McDonald said adding the HPV vaccine to the health plan was not considered for this year. He added if it’s something students want included in their plans in the future, it is something the RRCSA would consider.