Students will now be able to obtain emergency contraception for free at Yale Health without being required to speak with a clinician first, according to Yale College Council President Saloni Rao ’20. The new policy comes in response to the YCC’s revelation that selling Plan B in vending machines is illegal in Connecticut.
The YCC had planned to install a new vending machine that would sell Plan B and other over-the-counter medications in early December. Plan B was already available for free to all students at Yale Health, but confusing information on the Yale Health website and student concerns had prompted YCC to launch the vending machine as an alternative source. However, the YCC was forced into “crisis management mode,” Rao said, after learning that Connecticut State Department of Consumer Protection regulations prohibit over-the-counter drugs like Plan B from being sold in vending machines. In response, Yale Health leadership worked with YCC to clarify its policies and expand access to Plan B, Rao added.
“I believe the new system at Yale Health will help combat a lot of the issues that had led us to propose the machine originally,” said Ileana Valdez ’21, a YCC representative who spearheaded the vending machine initiative.
Students can obtain emergency contraception 24/7 — at the Yale Health Pharmacy or at Acute Care during hours when the pharmacy is closed. While clinicians will be available to discuss other options and additional care, students will no longer be required to speak with Yale Health staff before obtaining Plan B.
According to Valdez, a Connecticut government official notified Yale Health about the vending machine regulations after reading news reports about the YCC’s Plan B vending machine. Valdez said that the company providing the vending machine, Vengo Labs, had told her that selling over-the-counter drugs was not illegal. However, Anthony Gelsi, chief of operations at Vengo, told the News that Connecticut laws prevent the company from installing a machine with Plan B at Yale.
The regulation prohibiting the sale of over-the-counter drugs in vending machines was passed in 1999, according to Lora Rae Anderson, communications director at the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection.
Rao said that the YCC was unaware of the “niche law” until Yale Health administrators notified her on Dec. 6, roughly a week after the News first reported on the vending machine initiative. Still, Rao called the outcome a “net positive” and praised Yale Health for promptly improving its policies and retraining all staff to become aware of the new Plan B distribution system.
The “Wellness-2-Go” vending machine will still be installed in the Good Life Center and will offer other health and hygiene products, according to Rao.
While Connecticut prohibits over-the-counter drugs from being sold in vending machines, schools in other states like Stanford and Brandeis have installed Plan B vending machines — initiatives not banned in California or Massachusetts.
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