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After two years of negotiations with the insurance provider Aetna, the human papillomavirus vaccine is now more affordable for students under the Penn Student Insurance Plan.

The $140 shot will now cost $40 under a co-pay program for eligible women insured by PSIP.

The vaccine against HPV consists of a series of three shots, the second and third of which are administered two and six months after the first. The new total for the vaccine is thus $120.

This pricing change for the 2008-2009 school year took place Sept. 1, and has so far received a positive response from students.

Since Student Health Services started providing the vaccine after its release in 2006, 1,000 shots have been given out. In September alone, SHS administered 127 vaccines.

The Student Health Insurance Advisory Committee, which consists of undergraduates, graduates, faculty and administrators, played a large role in arranging the subsidy.

SHIAC, which mediates student demand for benefits and the costs they incur, administered a survey last year to gauge popularity for HPV vaccine coverage.

Survey results confirmed that "people felt very passionately we should cover it," said Mike Baiocchi, a Wharton graduate student who is a member of SHIAC.

However, some students -- like graduate students who pay for PSIP out of pocket - indicated concern that coverage would increase their premiums too much, providing a "strong counterbalance," Baiocchi added.

Now that the policy has been implemented, however, there has been no negative response, Baiocchi said.

Because the HPV vaccine is so new and was only approved by the Food and Drug Administration as of July 2006, there were challenges in getting it covered by PSIP, said Deborah Mathis, nurse practitioner and chief administrator of Women's Health.

When the vaccine first came out, insurance company estimates for the costs of coverage were "too aggressive in their pricing," Baiocchi said.

But as prices fell in subsequent years, SHIAC and SHS administrators began seriously considering HPV vaccine coverage.

Now, coverage for the HPV vaccine is "becoming more standard of care everywhere," she added, which helped provide momentum for negotiations.

More universities offer the vaccine and are negotiating with insurance companies if they aren't already providing coverage, Mathis said.

SHS charges per shot rather than a total upfront cost because many students will get one shot at home and the rest on campus, Mathis said.

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