Wellness Center installs emergency birth control vending machine in Little Building

Contraceptive+vending+machine.

Cherilyn Kim

Contraceptive vending machine.

By Bailey Allen

Tucked in the corner of Emerson College’s Little Building mailroom is a brand-new vending machine. Not for snacks, though—it’s full of emergency contraception pills.

The college’s Wellness Center unveiled the machine on Jan. 31, granting students 24-hour access to “My Way” brand morning-after pills for the cost of $10 cash or $10.10 with a credit card, according to the center.

“The goal of the vending machine is to increase timely availability of emergency contraception for students at an affordable cost, decrease stigma regarding sexual health, and support sexual health needs in the setting of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” said Lisa Viveiros, associate director of health services at the Wellness Center, in a statement to the Beacon.

Although “Plan B” brand pills usually cost about $40 to $50 each, according to Planned Parenthood, the college was able to keep costs down by purchasing the pills directly from the company instead of through a third-party vendor, Viveiros said.

“There are multiple brand names of emergency contraception available on the market, including My Way, Plan B, Ella, etc.,” she said. “These medications work similarly by preventing implantation and/or ovulation. The cost of these medications varies depending on how they are sold.”

For the “My Way” brand, students should take one pill within 72 hours after heterosexual intercourse, Viveiros said. She said the sooner the pill is taken, the more effective the medication will be.

In light of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade in June 2022 causing the right to an abortion to depend on which state one lives in, the Emerson Wellness Center followed in the footsteps of colleges such as Boston University and Northeastern to “support a person’s right to choose,” Viveiros said.

The Wellness Center decided to put the vending machine in the Little Building due to the large percentage of students the dormitory houses, she said. Other locations on campus had more limited access.

“I’m really happy to be able to support our students in this way and support their reproductive rights on campus,” Brandin Dear, the college’s associate dean and director of counseling, health, and wellness, said in a video posted to the Wellness Center’s Instagram account last month.

The video showed Viveiros using an oversized pair of scissors to cut a violet ribbon in front of the machine while a crowd of Emerson community members clapped and cheered.

Amiri Sillah, SGA’s student experience senator for the class of 2026 and first-year political communications major, said the addition was long overdue, but students can’t beat the price.

“In a ​​regular store, Plan B would be like $50, so here you get like five for the price of one,” Sillah said. “Stuff it in your bag and just rock out.”

The vending machine will eventually sell other sexual health products, such as condoms, dental dams, lubricants, and menstrual products, according to Viveiros. The products are currently free to students in the Wellness Center waiting room.

“We are working with our vending machine rep to add these additional items at a marginal cost,” she said.

Sillah thinks there should be a sign directing students to the machine because it’s not “in the open.”

In addition to the new vending machine, the Emerson Wellness Center offers birth control consultations and management services, Viveiros said. They prescribe birth control pills, rings, and patches and provide education and referrals for IUD or implant placement.

The center also offers testing and treatment for a range of sexually-transmitted infections, HIV-prevention counseling and prescriptions, and pelvic examinations, Viveiros said.

There will be a Sexual Health Fair with games and giveaways on March 3, from 1 to 3 p.m., at The Loft—118 Boylston St., next to the Lion’s Den, according to the Wellness Center. Local organizations, such as Fenway Health, Boston Alliance for Gay and Lesbian Youth, Planned Parenthood, and Boston Area Rape Crisis, will be involved.