Educating Families About HPV Vaccine
The New Mexico Department of Health is working with schools across New Mexico to educate parents and students about human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that can cause cervical cancer, and the vaccine available to protect young girls. The Department of Health encourages parents to learn more about the vaccine, considering a recent national study that found teenage girls have high rates of sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV.
This week, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the results of a national study of sexually transmitted diseases among teenage girls. The study looked at rates of HPV, chlamydia, trichomoniasis and herpes simplex virus. About 18 percent of girls in the study had HPV.
When the HPV vaccine became available, the Department of Health advocated for and received additional funding in 2007 to provide the series of vaccine to every girl in New Mexico. The Department also developed an educational brochure about HPV and the vaccine and has worked with school nurses to distribute information to students and parents.
"It's our responsibility to provide information to families so they can make educated decisions about their health care," said Health Secretary Dr. Alfredo Vigil.
The New Mexico Legislature and Governor Bill Richardson supports $950,000 in recurring funding to help the Department cover the cost of the HPV vaccine. In addition, Governor Richardson signed a bill in 2007 that requires health insurance companies to cover the cost of the vaccine. Sen. Dede Feldman sponsored Senate Bill 407.
The Department encourages New Mexicans to follow the CDC's recommendation for annual chlamydia screening for all sexually active women under age 25. It also recommends the threedose HPV vaccine for girls ages 11 and 12, and catch-up shots for females ages 13 to 26. While the HPV vaccine can protect against HPV, it does not take the place of regular Pap tests, which are the only way to screen for cervical cancer.
"The HPV vaccine is an important tool in preventing cervical cancer, and we take every opportunity to educate parents and make the vaccine available for our young people," Vigil said.