Students seeking the “morning-after pill” will no longer need to travel further than Silliman College to purchase emergency contraception.
A new 24/7 “wellness to-go” vending machine will soon sell emergency contraception, as well as other over-the-counter medications, condoms and lube. The machine will be installed in Silliman’s Good Life Center before winter break.
“The point of this is to make Plan B more accessible and to make medications in general more accessible,” said Ileana Valdez ’21, a Yale College Council representative who spearheaded the installation effort. “Hopefully this will set a precedent for more machines to show up around campus that contain other things so Yale students don’t have to go out of their way to go to CVS, especially students from the new colleges.”
Emergency contraception helps to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or birth control failure. Grace Cheung ’21, who first proposed the idea of a Plan B vending machine last fall, emphasized that unprotected sex frequently occurs on campus and purchasing emergency contraception can be an inconvenient and “humiliating process.” Cheung also noted that documents on the Yale Health website present unclear information about emergency contraception.
Though Yale spokeswoman Karen Peart and the YCC fall survey stated that the pill is available to students for free 24/7, the Yale Health Student Handbook only states that emergency contraception is free for students insured under Yale’s Hospitalization/Specialty Care Coverage plan. It does not mention its cost for students insured under Yale’s basic version. But according to the Yale Health Drug List, which contains all drugs available at Yale Health Pharmacy, Plan B has “not covered” status, regardless of one’s insurance plan. Other emergency contraceptive brands, such as Next Choice and My Way require a $45 co-pay for students with specialty coverage. Despite the confusion on the website, Peart emphasized that emergency contraception is currently free to all students — regardless of gender or insurance plan — at the Yale Health Pharmacy or at Acute Care during hours when the pharmacy is closed.
“Comprehensive counseling regarding contraception and reproductive health are available to all students in the Ob-Gyn department or in Student Health,” Peart wrote in an email to the News. “No bill or insurance claim will result from this request.”
Last year, members of the Reproductive Justice Action League at Yale, YCC representatives and other students began advocating for a vending machine that offers emergency contraception in response to student concerns and confusion about the cost and availability of Plan B at Yale Health.
The price of emergency contraception from the vending machine will be comparable to or lower than the cost at CVS and other pharmacies, according to Valdez. Plan B costs $49.99 at CVS and Walgreens.
Tracy George, director of the Good Life Center and the Yale Well Initiative, said the center was a good space to pilot the wellness machine, as the center exists to support health and well-being initiatives. George noted that the exact location of the machine is yet to be confirmed, but she hopes it will be located in one of the bathrooms to ensure students can use the new machine in privacy.
YCC partnered with Vengo Labs, a company that offers small, compact vending machines with various products to install and re-stock the wellness machine for free, according to Valdez.
Cheung and Valdez said that students have had varying experiences at Yale Health when trying to obtain Plan B for free, and many students are unaware that emergency contraception is supposed to be free. According to the YCC’s fall survey data, over 75 percent of student respondents said they were unaware that Yale Health offers emergency contraception 24/7 and for free.
Still, Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd noted that during the mandatory workshop with Community Health Educators, all first-year students learn about contraception and the types of contraception available to students at Yale, including Plan B.
“I’m glad that the YCC is working to publicize awareness of the easy availability of Plan B at Yale Health,” Boyd wrote in an email to the News. “We give the first-years an enormous amount of information during orientation, so later reminders are important.”
In light of the confusion surrounding Plan B’s cost and availability, Valdez added that she hopes to partner with Yale Health to launch an information campaign that “demystifies” what services are offered by Yale Health, regardless of student insurance plans.
Yale is not the first university to install a wellness machine with emergency contraception and other medications. Stanford, Pomona College, Brandeis, the University of California, Davis and the University of California, Santa Barbara have all installed Plan B vending machines in recent years.
Alice Park | firstname.lastname@example.org