A vaccine to prevent cancer is available free to under-insured and uninsured men and women ages 19-26 through the Florida Department of Health in Lee County at locations now including Lehigh and Estero.
Typically, the three-part Human Papillomavirus preventing vaccine costs nearly $400 per person.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that more than 79 million Americans are infected with the virus, which leads to more than 12,000 cases of cancer in women and 8,000 cases of cancer in men annually. The series of three vaccines is listed as safe with only mild side effects.
"Many types of Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, are preventable with this vaccine," said Diana Prat, human services program director at DOH-Lee. "Although it works best when given to children before they become sexually active adults, it can also prevent cancer in young men and women."
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection. That, combined with the opportunity to get the vaccine free, is why DOH-Lee is making the HPV vaccine available in all parts of the county, said Prat.
It is estimated that 85 percent of Americans will contract HPV at some point in their lives if they have not received the vaccine, according to the CDC. The virus can be passed between sex partners even when the infected partner has no signs or symptoms.
"Consistent use of condoms might reduce the chance of infection, but genital warts can spread to areas not covered by the condom," Neryda Greene, health educator program consultant for DOH-Lee. "So condoms may not fully protect against this virus. The vaccines have been found to be effective in preventing many types of HPV infections."
DOH-Lee has over 600 doses of the free vaccine to administer to qualified individuals, which includes young adults whose insurance does not cover the HPV vaccine. The HPV vaccine is always free for children under the state's Vaccines for Children program. Boys and girls are recommended to get the vaccine beginning at age 11.
The Lehigh location opened Feb. 5 at the Women, Infants and Children office, at 5624 W. Eighth St., Suite 106. The HPV vaccine will be offered on the first Wednesday of each month.
For more information, go to: www.leechd.com.