Temporary HPV vaccination point at the USP
Quick and easy: get vaccinated against cervical and penis cancer on campus
Since the beginning of the year, people born between 1996 and 2003 are being encouraged to get vaccinated against HPV at a number of locations spread across the province, including the cities of Utrecht and Amersfoort. Rens de Jonge, Manager of Vaccination and Screening for the Utrecht area, says: “Setting a vaccination point at the Utrecht Science Park is a good idea given that university students are among our target age group.”
This temporary location aims to make it easy for students to get a jab. You’re already at the Science Park for classes, so why not walk in and get vaccinated, as you don’t even need to make an appointment? De Jonge: “We know from experience that the closer you are to your target group, the easier it is for people to actually go and get their vaccines.”
That's something UU student Geert-Jan (25) can appreciate. “It went better than I'd expected. I assumed I’d have to sit down for fifteen minutes afterwards, like we had to do with the Covid vaccine, but that wasn’t necessary. Being able to do this without an appointment comes in handy too.”
Hendrik (24) had the same experience. He tried to make an appointment a while back to get a jab at another location, but that didn't work out. He wasn't expecting to get vaccinated on Thursday, March 9, the first day the GGD spot at the library was open. "I just came here to study."
Protected against six types of cancer
At the top of the first set of stairs to enter the library, you'll find two GGD employees helping students to register their personal and medical data, and answering their questions. A recurring question from female students is “I had the HPV vaccine when I was twelve, is this the same one?”
The short answer is yes. These students don’t need to be vaccinated again. The vaccine protects against the human papillomavirus, which in some cases can lead to cancer. HPV is a highly contagious virus, one that around eight in ten people will be infected with in their lives, and it can be transmitted sexually. Most people won’t know that they have it because many don’t get sick from it. Moreover, your body usually cleans up the virus by itself.
In some cases, however, the virus can affect your cells, which can lead to cancer. Cervical cancer is a frequent type of cancer that is caused by the HPV virus, which is why the vaccine used to be named after it. But HPV can also cause cancer in the penis, anus, labia, vagina, mouth and throat. For that reason, the GGD has been vaccinating people against HPV since 2009.
GGD's reason for targeting students is related to that very first round of vaccinations. At the time, only girls around 13 years old were called in. Similarly to what happened with the Covid vaccine, many unfounded rumours about side effects were spread out, which led a considerable number of parents to decide not to have their daughters vaccinated. The girls who were 13 then have now reached the age of the average student.
Anna (23) was twelve when she got the letter inviting her to get a cervical cancer jab. At the time, her parents felt that the possible risks were reason enough not to get her vaccinated. She’s happy she can now make that decision herself. “At least I’m protected a bit better,” she celebrates as she walks out of the vaccination room. “My parents totally support my decision now, by the way!” she adds.
International students can get the jab free of charge too
Contrary to that first round, men can also get an HPV vaccine now. It's free for those who were born between 1996 and 2003 (20 to 26 years old). There are a lot of boys in the queue for the jab. Asked why he’s getting vaccinated, Hendrik replies: “Why not?” He points at the information sign. “It says this ‘protects against six types of cancer’. That's swell”
The vaccine is also available to foreign students. De Jonge: “The vaccine is for everyone who was born in those years, regardless of nationality.” It's important to note, however, that international students must stay in the Netherlands for at least six months after the first jab as they have to go back for a second dose then.
First-year Bachelor's student Mina, from Japan, will stay here until the end of her studies, so she decided to get the vaccine. “In Japan, it’s not recommended in Japan to get the vaccine because of the side effects, so I didn’t do it there. Besides, there, you have to get three jabs instead of two. I prefer that because I’m afraid of needles.”
2023 HPV vaccination campaign: March 10, 14 and 15
The location at the USP is part of this year's HPV vaccination campaign and is only meant for those born between 1996 and 2003. If you're older than that, you can also get vaccinated but you have to make an appointment through your general practitioner and pay around 200 euros for the vaccine. The GGD pop-up location will also be open on Tuesday, March 14, and Wednesday, March 15. Students will have to make an appointment for the follow-up jab, which should be taken five to six months after the first.