The Costa Rican Social Security System (Caja) began this week a nationwide campaign to vaccinate girls against the human papilloma virus, or HPV.
With President Carlos Alvarado in attendance, the first HPV vaccines were administered Monday at the National Children’s Hospital. The event marked the beginning of an effort to vaccinate every 10-year-old girl — at least 35,000 people — in the country against the cancer-causing virus.
“The beginning of the application of this vaccine, the result of inter-institutional work at different levels, shows us again how we are able to meet goals in terms of prevention,” Alvarado said. “We are making decisions for the welfare of our future generations.”
Starting this week, Health Ministry officials will visit schools across the country — public and private — to vaccinate girls.
As part of the country’s basic vaccination schedule, parents across Costa Rica are obligated to ensure their children obtain the HPV vaccine.
“As parents, we have this possibility to protect our girls, and what better way to do it than taking advantage of this campaign?” said Dr. Daniel Salas Peraza, the Minister of Health.
“The vaccine is mandatory, so in conjunction with the Child Welfare Office (PANI) and in collaboration with the National Police, the State has the power to act in case a parent or guardian, after receiving the correct and appropriate information, refuse to vaccinate their daughter.”
According to the Health Ministry, a new case of cervical cancer is diagnosed every day in Costa Rica, and a woman dies every three days of the disease. Cervical cancer is the sixth-highest cause of death among cancers for Costa rican women.
HPV causes nearly all cervical cancers, according to the Health Ministry, and girls who receive the HPV vaccine will be protected against the two most dangerous types of the virus.
Nine out of 10 adults will come in contact with the HPV virus during their lifetimes, though the majority of the population is asymptomatic. However, according to the Health Ministry, “the virus can develop lesions when the infection persists and over time generate cervical cancer.”
Health Ministry officials will coordinate with school administrators and notify parents in advance about vaccination dates at their school. No preparation is necessary prior to receiving the HPV vaccine.