Cervical cancer vaccine roll-out for older pupils
'Catch-up' programme for sixth year girls
Dr James Reilly: says scheme will be expanded
Up to 28,000 schoolgirls in sixth year are to be offered the cervical cancer vaccine from September after a decision to roll out a "catch-up" programme.
Health Minister James Reilly said yesterday the vaccine programme would be expanded outside girls in first year in order to make sure older pupils would not lose out.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) said last night the extension would cost €2.5m and would come out of its budget for immunisation programmes.
During this academic year, the vaccine was offered to first- and second-year pupils. It will be also be offered to first-year girls again from next September.
Dr Reilly said yesterday that the vaccinations would "save many lives over the coming years, protecting our people from the scourge of cancer".
Cervical cancer is the second most common form of the disease among women aged 15 to 44, and HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is proven as a cause.
Dr Brenda Corcoran, head of the HSE national immunisation office, stressed the vaccine was safe and fully tested.
"The vaccine protects against the main cancer-causing strains of the Human Papillomavirus and will eventually save around 60 lives in Ireland every year.
"Around 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer here annually, with around 80 deaths. HPV vaccine will prevent at least 70pc of these cases."
Around 80pc of girls who have been offered the vaccine so far have availed of it but Dr Reilly said he hoped more would take advantage of the health-protection measure.
Parents of girls who are getting the vaccine in September will receive a detailed information booklet and consent form from the HSE. It will be sent out to the school before the vaccinations begin. Parents can also get more information by visiting the website www.hpv.ie.
There have been more than 100 adverse reactions reported to the vaccine, many of them arising out of complications observed in girls who received the jab in school.
However, parents have been assured that all reported adverse reactions come within the expected pattern of effects and are not a cause for concern.
They include redness and soreness around the injection site, feeling ill, headache, muscle pain, fatigue, gastrointestinal symptoms and skin reactions.
Dizziness and syncope (fainting) were among the most commonly reported reactions.
The Marie Keating Foundation last night welcomed the roll-out, while the Irish Cancer Society said more information was available through its helpline on 1800 200 700.