Mexico to Offer Free HPV Vaccination in Federal District


Mexican
women have reasons to celebrate. In order to reduce the rate of cervical
cancer, the Mexican capital government has announced a free HPV vaccination
campaign for girls from the Federal District. 

Human
Papilloma Virus is one of the causes of cervical cancer. HPV infects 20 percent
of men and women in Latin America, but it does
not always result in cervical cancer. When it affects men, it can cause cancer
of the penis or anus. 

"There are
about 100 types of HPV, and just 30 or 40 of them attack the female and male
genitals. Moreover, there is an 80 percent chance of getting infected over the
lifespan," explained Nubia Muñoz Calero, Colombian pathologist and physician, a
member of the committee of scientists in charge of supervising the HPV vaccine
Gardasil’s clinic trials, and nominated for the Nobel Prize for Physiology and
Medicine 2008. 

According
to the Mexican governmental Subsecretaría
de Prevención y Promoción de la Salud
, the mortality rate due to cervical
cancer has decreased over the last 15 years. In fact, in 1990 there were 25.3
deaths for 100,000 women. In 2006, the rate was 14.6. However, this decrease
was not homogeneous within the country. Most of the Mexican victims are poor
women from states with a low human development index. 

Nevertheless,
cervical cancer can be treated if it is detected early. According to the
National Survey on Reproductive Health (2003), just 70.7 percent of Mexican
women had a Pap smear in the last three years. 

The Pap
smear, a method used for early cancer detection, has a low detection rate, and often provides false
negative diagnosis, which is why the HPV vaccine is very important, pointed out
Muñoz. However, the Colombian scientist warned that the girls vaccinated
required early detection tests as well, since the vaccine is not 100 percent
effective, to prevent high grade damages and the cervical cancer associated to
HPV types 16 and 18. 

These HPV
types cause between 65 and 70 percent of the cervical cancer worldwide, and in Latin America respectively. 

In 2007,
the Mexican government launched the Programa de Acción Específico de Cáncer
Cérvico Uternino 2007-2012 (Specific Action Program on Cervical Cancer 2007-
2012), a comprehensive plan aimed "to reduce the mortality and morbidity rates
through the provision of excellent services for the promotion, prevention,
detection, diagnosis, treatment and suffering control, as well as the
responsible participation of the population on health care." 

Through the
program’s implementation, by 2012, the detection coverage will be 85 percent
every three years among women between 25 and 34 years old. Other goals are diminishing the mortality rate among women 25
years old or older by 27 percent, compared to the rate of 2006. Another goal is
to reduce the disparities of the mortality rate 50 percent. 

It is in
the framework of this program that the free distribution of the HPV vaccine was
considered. 

The Mexican
vaccination announcement came after Panama launched a national free HPV
vaccination campaign, last October. The Mexican vaccination will cover, so far,
the capital city, and will be provided to about 35,000 girls between 11 and 13
years old, in all the health care centers of Mexico City. 

As it is a
prophylactic vaccine, it has to be applied before the sexual life starts in
order to have better results, since the HPV is a sexually transmitted
infection. 

Last
December, thousands of girls received the first dose of the vaccine, as well as
a short information session, which included various sexuality topics and documentation
related to gender violence. 

The Mexican State, the metropolitan area which
surrounds the capital, announced that in 2009, it will implement a vaccination
campaign aimed at students in the sixth grade.

The HPV vaccine
has been sold in Mexico
since 2006, but it was only provided by the private health centers at a high
price of 600 US Dollars. The vaccine, in any of its marks, is one of the most
costly vaccines worldwide. Panama’s
budget for the vaccination of all 10-year-old girls is 5,6 million dollars. For
the implementation of the Mexican campaign, the government allocated about 10
million dollars. 

"The
governments should negotiate the prices with the pharmaceutical laboratories,
or work together at regional level in order to get lower cost prices through
PAHO’s Rotary Fund," recommended Muñoz.

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    HPV types carried by the mother are passed to the baby in utero. Many HPV infections clear up on their own with no intervention. Women and men who are not tested for those HPV types which are associated with cancers and genital warts are running the risk of being immunized for HPV types which they already carry. Testing for HPV pre-administration would save the costs associated with unnecessary vaccination.