March 2, 2007

California Medical Association Foundation Launches Program To Promote HPV Vaccination

The California Medical Association Foundation on Wednesday launched a campaign to promote awareness of cervical cancer screenings and urge immunization against human papillomavirus, the Sacramento Bee reports (Griffith, Sacramento Bee, 1/24). FDA in July 2006 approved Merck's HPV vaccine Gardasil for sale and marketing to girls and women ages nine to 26, and CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices later that month voted unanimously to recommend that girls ages 11 and 12 receive the vaccine. Gardasil in clinical trials has been shown to be 100% effective in preventing infection with HPV strains 16 and 18, which together cause about 70% of cervical cancer cases (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 1/23). California Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Sally Lieber (D) last month introduced a bill (AB 16) that would require all California girls entering the sixth grade to receive an HPV vaccine, with an exception for girls whose parents file a letter stating that participation is against their beliefs (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 12/11). The CMA Foundation plans to provide online tool kits to physicians on the best methods to discuss cervical cancer and the vaccine with patients. HPV vaccines have not been a "significant part of the (doctor-patient) discussion because it starts to get into that piece that moves past the cancer to sexual activity," Elissa Maas, vice president of the CMA Foundation, said, adding that most health plans and Medicaid will cover the cost of the vaccine for women and girls ages 18 and younger. Alina Salganicoff, a Kaiser Family Foundation vice president and director of women's health policy at the foundation, said there is concern about the 23% of women ages 19 to 26 who do not have health insurance. "Cervical cancer often affects women who are low-income, of color and immigrants," Salganicoff said, adding, "These are women least likely to be able to afford health care and need the most help in terms of prevention and screening. They may also be the women least likely to get access to this vaccine because they are uninsured" (Sacramento Bee, 1/24). In California, Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program, covers the vaccination for female beneficiaries ages 18 and younger. In addition, the administration of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) has proposed $11 million in additional funding to cover the vaccination for 50,000 Medi-Cal beneficiaries ages 19 to 26 (Folmar, Media News/Contra Costa Times, 1/22).

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