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Morning-after pill now available through vending machine at UC Davis

The Wellness to Go vending machine was installed in a lounge at the Activities and Recreation Center at UC Davis during spring break. The machine dispenses emergency contraceptive pills, as well as condoms, over-the-counter drugs and lubricant.
The Wellness to Go vending machine was installed in a lounge at the Activities and Recreation Center at UC Davis during spring break. The machine dispenses emergency contraceptive pills, as well as condoms, over-the-counter drugs and lubricant. The Sacramento Bee

A vending machine at UC Davis dispensing an emergency contraceptive, known as the morning-after pill, may be one of the first of its kind on a university campus.

The machine was installed at the Activities and Recreation Center at UC Davis over spring break. It also offers condoms, feminine hygiene products, lubricant and over-the-counter allergy pills and pain relievers.

“I think these are just basic resources that students need on campuses,” said senior Parteek Singh, 21, who worked for two years to get the vending machine installed. “Most college students are sexually active … and these resources should be provided to them.”

Singh says only four universities in the nation sell emergency contraceptives in a vending machine. Some offer them in their pharmacies. The vending machine sells the morning-after pill for $30, the lowest price possible, he said.

Feedback about the vending machine, called “Wellness to Go,” has been positive, Singh said.

“I really value the anonymity of having a vending machine,” said student Georgia Savage, director of advocacy and student representation for the Associated Students of UC Davis.

“Obviously, we have health services on our campus that students can go to. But, a lot of students like the judgment-free space and don’t have to feel the pressure of interacting with people. I think that increases accessibility,” she said.

Singh decided to push to bring the vending machine on campus after friends shared their problems obtaining the morning-after pill at the town’s only 24-hour pharmacy. They told him the store sometime runs out of the emergency contraceptive and doesn’t take delivery of it for several days.

The morning-after pill must be taken within five days to be effective, according to the website for the Office of Population Research at Princeton University. The sooner it is taken, the less likely a person is to become pregnant.

Singh, who was elected to the UC Davis Student Senate in 2015, said the university’s administration initially rejected the vending machine and offered to sell emergency contraception at the bookstore.

“Students already don’t feel comfortable buying it from pharmacies,” Singh said. “Can you image buying it from another student?”

After hearing Singh’s arguments and his suggestion that the school include other health and wellness items like tampons, aspirin and allergy pills, administrators agreed to the vending machine.

The sexual health vending machine is stocked by the student pharmacy and UC Davis Stores, which runs the campus bookstore and other retail outlets.

Savage said that buzz about the vending machine is growing on social media, with students sharing stories about it on their Facebook pages.

“People are talking about it,” she said. “We are one of the first to do this. It is really unique to our school and has a lot of people talking about it in a positive matter.”

Savage said that many students are proud that the university is supporting something that could be considered controversial.

“I think this is such a fabulous idea and I’m so glad this has come to fruition at our school,” said Savage. “This is the No. 1 action that UC Davis has done to promote reproductive justice and reproductive rights.”

The Activities and Recreation Center, which houses the university’s gym and is open 18 hours every day, is a prime location for the vending machine, Singh said. He said it is particularly important for freshmen, who don’t always have transportation to go to a pharmacy.

Now, Singh, an economics major, is working with students at other universities to bring machines that vend emergency contraceptives to their campuses. “I think every campus should have this resource,” he said.

Diana Lambert: 916-321-1090, @dianalambert

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