HPV vaccine uptake plummets as Health Minister says 'scaremongerers should butt out'
Nearly one woman a day in Ireland will continue to be diagnosed with cervical cancer if more girls fail to get the HPV vaccine which can prevent the disease, a leading infectious disease consultant has warned.
Dr Karina Butler of Our Lady’s Hospital in Crumlin was speaking as the HSE launched a new campaign to increase the uptake of the HPV vaccine in secondary schools which has plummeted to 50pc.
The warning comes as Health Minister Simon Harris urged people to "leave medical advice to medical professionals", saying "Scaremongers should butt out".
Dr Butler said she was assured of the safety the vaccine and her three daughters have had the full course of jabs.
The fall in take-up has been linked to the circulation of unfounded reports about the vaccine’s safety.
“This is a vaccine that can save lives. It works. In Scotland where their vaccination programme has been in place since 2008, they have seen a 90pc decrease in HPV infections. In Australia the vaccine has prevented one in every two new cervical cancers.”
Dr Butler said as a paediatrician she has treated teenage girls and boys for side effects which are wrongly linked to the vaccine.
Campaigners against the vaccine have linked it to side effects such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and chronic regional pain syndrome.
But Dr Butler said the evidence is these are not caused by the HPV vaccine.
Minister Harris said:
"One of the most important things we can do is to provide accurate and credible information to enable parents to take a fully informed decision concerning HPV vaccination.
"We know that the HPV vaccine works and saves lives.”
The Department of Health outlined that Ireland's uptake for many vaccines in the Primary Childhood Immunisation Programme are close to the World Health Organisation uptake target of 95 per cent.
They said that thanks to vaccination once-common diseases including polio, measles and diphtheria are now quite rare.
Minister Harris said: “I am delighted to help launch this new HPV Vaccine campaign. It is vital that we get the information out that this vaccine can save lives and prevent cancer.
"I know that parents want to do everything possible to make sure their children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases. Let's protect our future.”