Photo: Mexico Healh Dept. Begins Vaccinating All 5th Grade Girls Against HPV
In 2008, in a campaign to significantly reduce the most common cancer affecting Mexican women, the Mexican Public Health Agency (Secretaria de Salud or SSA) announced it was launching the first phase of a program that would offer testing for human papillomavirus (HPV), the primary cause of cervical cancer, to low-income women age 35-65. The cost of the testing was covered by the agency. In the first phase of the screening program, which began in November 2008,, more than 200,000 women in the lowest-income 125 counties were offered the papillomavirus test along with the traditional Pap smear. In 2009, the pilot program expanded to include another 600,000 women in the 20 states with the highest death rate from cervical cancer.
When he took office, President Felipe Calderon made reducing health inequalities in Mexico a top priority for his administration. Cervical cancer was a major focus of this campaign, since so many Mexican women are affected - more than 12,000 a year. One of the national initiatives to date has been coordination among the social, private and public sectors to increase the efficiency and efficacy of cervical cancer prevention by modifying the Official Mexican Norm (NOM-014-SSA2-1994) for the disease. The changes are designed to better facilitate the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer among the most vulnerable women through public education and use of the most advanced, effective technologies for screening - including the HPV test.
Infection with the papillomavirus is very common. In fact, the World Health Organization estimates that 11 percent of Mexican women carry cervical HPV at any given time. It is estimated that 4,000 Mexican woman die of cervical cancer each year.
Now, as Mexico prepares to put a new man in office, President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto, the next phase has begun and includes ordering HPV vaccinations for all 5th-grade girls, in hopes of ending the threat of cervical cancer.
Roughly one million schoolgirls ages 10-12 received the vaccinations earlier this month along with another 200,000 girls not in school. The girls will be given another shot in six months after their first, and will receive a third and final injection in 9th grade.
In 2007, Greece made similar public health mandates when they made it mandatory for all girls entering seventh grade to begin the HPV vaccination process.
It should be noted that not all HPV subtypes are affected by the vaccine, as it only targets subtypes 16 and 18, which are responsible for 70 percent of cervical cancers in Mexico.