A controversial but unique vending machine at a Pennsylvania university will not be controlled by the Food and Drug Administration, but some SIU staff have reservations about its contents.
On Wednesday, FDA officials said the administration will not regulate Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University’s contraceptive vending machine, which sells sexual health products such as condoms, Plan B and feminine care products. Parents and faculty questioned the machine’s validity, but the FDA decided to take no action because it can be used only with a school ID the individual’s age. However, the FDA has previously come out to favor removing the age requirement.
Sarah Steinkamp,Wellness Center coordinator, voiced concern about the vending machine. Unlike a pharmacist, a contraceptive vending machine would not give a female student necessary information she would need before taking the Plan B pill, Steinkamp said.
“I think Plan B, like any other medication, has a lot of detailed information that you need before you take it and that having availability to anyone at any time can increase the amount of people who take it, without understanding the side effects,” she said.
Peggy Sullivan, a doctoral student studying human growth and development from Peoria, said she was also concerned about the pill’s easy vending machine access for students.
“I think the condoms would not be a problem, although they are available without paying for them,” she said. “I would have to have more information before I say that the Plan B pill should be that readily available to students.”
Steinkamp said she thinks the pharmacist plays a key role when purchasing any medication.
“We have Plan B available in our pharmacy here,” Steinkamp said. “The reason that is a good thing is because the pharmacist can have a conversation with the student. If a woman is on birth control, sometimes Plan B isn’t good for her to take, and having that conversation is important.”
Steinkamp said the vending machines would serve as a way to help the students with sexual health and to help combat sexually transmitted diseases and infections, but the focus has been on the availability to the Plan B pill and what message that sends to students who are sexually active. Large STD or STI outbreaks are rare on college campuses, she said.
“Our STI rates are on par with national averages; students are sexually active and get STIs,. I haven’t seen anything that makes me want to throw my hands up.” Steinkamp said.
Sullivan said students should be aware of their sexual health options. Treatment and testing is available at the Student Health Center, she said.
“The first step is education,” Sullivan said. “The second step would be to get the student over to the Health Center to get tested and get treatment, if treatment is available.”
The testing center is open to all students, Steinkamp said, and the $6 testing bill can be issued to students’ bursar bills.
Even if a contraceptive vending machine is ever established on campus, both Sullivan and Steinkamp said contraceptives are already available at an affordable cost.
“Our pharmacy has condoms available for $2, a pack of 12 Magnums for only 2 dollars,” Steinkamp said. “I have never seen that price anywhere else.”
Garrett Israel, a junior from Crystal Lake studying architecture, said he was unaware of the Health Center’s options.
“Living at Wall and Grand, there weren’t many condoms handed out that I have seen, but I don’t participate in Wall and Grand events,” he said. “I know the RAs are suppose to give them to us if we ask for them, but I didn’t know that testing was $6, or that it could go on my bursar.”