The UAA Student Health and Counseling Center, or SHCC, offers vaccines for students who are living in the dorms, traveling or are part of athletic or extracurricular programs. During flu season, they offer community flu shots throughout campus for all students. The SHCC nurses recognize that not every student and vaccine is covered under those criteria, and any student can go get any vaccine, as long as they’re willing.
Mary Woodring, an advanced practice registered nurse and board-certified family nurse practitioner, said that vaccinations vary in price. The more common vaccines, such as flu shots, are provided by Alaska state vaccination programs, which means the UAA SHCC does not have to pay for them. As a result, the SHCC only charges a small administration fee. Other vaccines have to be purchased by the center, which can lead to a larger bill. However, there are alternate, affordable ways to get these vaccines.
“Some of the manufacturers of the vaccines have programs where if you fit the income criteria, you can receive the vaccine for free or for very low cost,” Woodring said.
Peer health educator Betty Bang, a family nurse practitioner, advocates for students to get the Human Papilloma Virus vaccine in particular. According to the FDA, the HPV vaccine is indicated to prevent many types of cancer, such as cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancer. The Alaska Vaccine Assessment Program covers the cost of the vaccine for male students aged 19 through 21 years and female students aged 19 through 25 years. If a student is covered under the program, the only cost is an administration fee of $15.
“We have private vaccines we can use for folks who fall outside of the AVAP,” Bang said. “We can check to see if their insurance carrier will cover it, otherwise it’s an expensive vaccine. If their insurance won’t cover it, we can contact the vaccine company and request a free vaccine for that person. It’s recommended that students at least stop by and we’ll see if we can get one for them even if they’re not in the AVAP guidelines.”
Registered nurse Jennifer Larson recognizes that a fear of needles is common and offers support to students who decide to get vaccinated, such as time to lay down, a cup of water and hand holding.
“Vaccines help prevent or very much lower the rate of transmittable diseases,” Larson said. “In Washington and other states there is a huge measles outbreak and 30 years ago that was pretty much eradicated from the United States. Because of the people being misinformed and not getting vaccines, among other things, there is a resurgence of vaccine-preventable diseases.”
Woodring echoed Larson’s concern about those who choose to go unvaccinated.
“The whole measles thing got started because people were relying on herd immunity, or that most people were immune to measles, so the likelihood of them getting exposed to it was very small,” Woodring said. “All it takes is one person coming into the country, maybe from an area where there is measles, and it reintroduces that disease. If there are people that aren’t immune, then it spreads.”
Bang encouraged students to visit the Alaska vaccine record online, VacTrAK, to see their previous vaccines. Call the Student Health and Counseling Center at (907) 786-4040 or visit them in Rasmuson Hall, rooms 116/120, and inquire about getting vaccinated today.