The HSE has today urged parents to protect their daughters from developing cervical cancer, by availing of the free HPV vaccine which is currently being administered as part of the HSE schools immunisation programme.
The HPV vaccine is safe and is a real life saver, says the head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran: “In 2016 more than 90 Irish women will die from cervical cancer and a further 280 will need intensive treatment, such as surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, to help them overcome invasive cervical cancer. Of these 280 women, around 112 (4 in 10) will die from their disease within five years. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years. HPV also causes pre-cancerous cervical conditions and a further 6,500 Irish women will need hospital treatment to remove these growths.”
Dr Corcoran outlined how the HPV vaccine was introduced for all girls in first year of second level school in 2010/ 2011. “The vaccine is given in schools by HSE vaccination teams as part of the HSE school immunisation programme. Since the programme started the vaccine uptake has always been above the target of 80%. Published figures for 2014/2015 show that HPV vaccine uptake was 87% – the highest ever since the programme began in 2010.
Final uptake figures for the 2015/ 2016 HPV vaccination programme are not yet available. However preliminary figures indicate that about 5000 less girls received the HPV vaccine for this period compared with 2014/2015. This significant decline in uptake varies across the country with some Western and Southern counties most affected. This decline may be related to unsubstantiated concerns about HPV vaccine safety which have no scientific basis.”
Stressing that the HPV vaccine is safe and saves lives, Dr Corcoran stated that: “HPV vaccine safety has been monitored for more than ten years by many international bodies including the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization. A number of syndromes and symptoms have been reported from small groups of families of girls across the globe. The symptoms reported can be very serious and consequential for those girls. The symptoms can often be hard to medically define.
“However, very careful and detailed analysis of reports of these conditions by independent national and international agencies analysing the millions of people who have been vaccinated to date has found that there is no difference in the rates of these illnesses between vaccinated and unvaccinated people. While there is no question that these illnesses are real and devastating for those affected, there is no medical or scientific evidence to support assertions of a link between these illnesses which arise in the whole population and the administration of the HPV or any other vaccine.”
The HSE today further emphasised that there is strong scientific evidence of the beneficial impact of HPV vaccine for women’s health in countries that introduced the vaccine when it first became freely available (2006) and that have had high vaccine uptake rates. Cases of high grade precancerous changes of the cervix have reduced by 75% in Australia and by more than 50% in Denmark and Scotland.
Cervical cancer can be prevented through the HPV vaccination by reducing the risk of infection by HPV strains known to cause this and other forms of cancer. More than 100 million people have been vaccinated with HPV vaccines worldwide. In Ireland more than 220,000 girls have been vaccinated.
Dr Corcoran concluded: “Getting the vaccine is the best way to prevent HPV related cancers and deaths. The HSE strongly urges parents to protect their daughters by availing of the vaccine.”
More information is available at www.immunisation.ie and www.hpv.ieTags: