The HSE is launching the next phase of the HPV Vaccine Information Campaign which aims to support parents in making an informed decision to ensure their daughters get the vaccine and get protected from cervical cancer.
The launch coincides with the return of the HSE vaccination teams to second level schools to administer the second dose of the vaccine to first year girls. The HSE has confirmed that preliminary figures show that the majority of girls received the first dose of the vaccine in the 2017/18 programme.
According to Dr Brenda Corcoran, Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office: “We have seen a national uptake rate of around 62% - eleven per cent higher than our preliminary figure from last year of 51%.
“That means that nearly two out of every three girls are now receiving the HPV vaccine which is really good news. This is really significant for the many groups and individuals who continue to ensure that the correct message is heard. We were particularly encouraged by the positive feedback we received from our vaccination teams in all areas of the country in relation to their interaction with the girls and their parents last September.”
Parents whose daughters have not had the vaccine but are still in second level schools are also being encouraged to contact their local vaccination teams and join the ‘catch-up’ programme which will be available in schools over the coming weeks.
The HSE Information Campaign will continue on radio, digital and social media and will showcase videos featuring individuals who volunteered to become involved for the first phase of the campaign launched last August. The next phase also features twenty five year old Laura Brennan from Co Clare. Laura talks about her experience of cervical cancer - which for Laura is now a life limiting condition. Laura hopes her story will encourage parents to be informed and get their daughters vaccinated.
Laura says: “I made contact with the HSE after I had been diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer. I’m only 25 but there is no treatment that will cure my cancer, only treatment that will now prolong my life. I didn’t get the HPV vaccine – it wasn’t available in schools when I was a teenager so my parents didn’t have the choice. The reality is that now there is a vaccine that protects girls from getting this horrible disease. No parent wants their daughter to get cervical cancer. If anything good comes from my situation, I hope that parents consider this – get the facts, get informed and make the decision to get their daughters vaccinated. The HPV vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine.”
Also addressing the event, GP and broadcaster Dr Ciara Kelly states: “I have been very encouraged by the groundswell of support for the vaccine that has been visible in recent months right across the public, medical, media and political spectrum. It is very clear that this is a vaccine that works and is safe. We know we can protect our daughters from seven out of ten cervical cancers - it’s a safe vaccine and is provided free of charge. I had no hesitation in giving this vaccine to my daughter and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my patients. If you have a daughter in first year, I recommend you consent to her getting the vaccine. If your daughter has missed the vaccine, the good news is it’s not too late to sign her up. Do your research. You can trust the information on www.hpv.ie.”
In Ireland every year 300 women develop cervical cancer and 90 women die from cervical cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against seven out of ten cancer causing HPV virus types. They are most effective when given at the age of 12 to 13 years and will provide protection throughout adulthood.
Professor Grainne Flannelly, Consultant Obstetrician/Gynaecologist, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, and Medical Director of CervicalCheck today noted: “As a Consultant Gynaecologist I see all too frequently the impact of HPV infections and the reality of cervical cancer. The evidence for the vaccine is compelling. We have a very real possibility now of eliminating cervical cancer in future generations of Irish women. But to achieve that we need to maintain our momentum in addressing our uptake rates and continue to restore them to where they were three years ago.”
Countries with high vaccine uptake rates have seen the greatest impact. In Scotland 90% of girls have been vaccinated since 2008. In Australia (where the vaccine was first introduced in 2007) the vaccine has prevented one in every two new cervical cancers. There has been a 90% fall in HPV infections in vaccinated girls which is even better than expected. Precancerous growths of the cervix have been reduced by more than 50% in countries such as Australia, Sweden and Scotland.
The latest WHO safety statement on the HPV vaccine stated that since 2006, more than 270 million doses of the vaccine have been administered worldwide. They have assessed the vaccine as “extremely safe”. In Ireland over 230,000 girls have been vaccinated and none have been found to have any long term side effects as a result of receiving the vaccine.
Speaking at today’s launch, Dr Stephanie O’Keeffe, HSE National Director Strategic Planning and Transformation states: “In launching our 2017 Information Campaign last year we set out to support parents and girls to ensure they got the vaccine and were protected. The support we received from the medical and nursing community and from the many groups involved in the Irish Cancer Society’s HPV Alliance has proven vital but we are very conscious that the resolve and energy we have all expended needs to continue. We embarked on this campaign because this vaccine is safe, it works, it prevents invasive treatments and it saves lives.”
“We want to continue to support parents recognising how one vaccine can prevent what we all know is a disease that directly impacts on over 6,000 women here every year. We’ll continue to prioritise providing the information parents need to make an informed choice for their daughters. The dedicated HSE website hpv.ie is the only Irish World Health Organization approved site and we recommend all parents to visit it as it will answer all their questions. We also continue to work with GPs and pharmacists who are available locally to discuss the vaccine along with the vaccination teams in local communities.”
Minister Harris welcomed the increase in uptake rates achieved since last year. However, he said while the increase in uptake rates are welcome more work needs to be done to ensure that all our young women are vaccinated and protected from cervical cancer. He also added “Vaccination teams are returning to schools in the coming weeks to administer the second dose of the HPV vaccine. I encourage the parents of any girl who missed the first dose to take advantage of this opportunity for their daughter to receive this important and lifesaving vaccine.”
The HPV vaccine is endorsed by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), the Irish Pharmacy Union and the Irish Cancer Society’s HPV Alliance and by major medical and scientific bodies worldwide including the World Health Organization, the Centres for Disease Control in the USA, the EU funded European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention and the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.