Monday 16 September 2019

'Legally challenging' - decision on schools ban for unvaccinated children soon

Bittersweet: Laura Brennan’s father Larry, mother Bernie and brothers Fergal and Kevin at the launch of the HPV vaccination programme. Photo: Marc OSullivan
Bittersweet: Laura Brennan’s father Larry, mother Bernie and brothers Fergal and Kevin at the launch of the HPV vaccination programme. Photo: Marc OSullivan
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

Health Minister Simon Harris will decide later this year whether to prohibit young children who are not vaccinated against infectious diseases such as measles from starting primary school or creche.

He said preliminary advice he has received so far from the Attorney General on the idea, which he first floated earlier this year, is that such as ban would be "legally challenging".

However, he intends to consult further with Cabinet colleagues, including the Education Minister, Joe McHugh, on issues such as competing rights and a child's entitlement to attend primary school.

He said he expects to have enough information at the end of this year to be clear on any policy or legal changes he will introduce.

All TDs in the Dáil will be asked to vote for a motion supporting the safety of vaccines in the next term.

He was speaking as it was announced the HPV vaccine to protect against certain adult cancers will be offered to all boys in the first year of secondary school from next month.

It has been given to girls at the same age for a number of years and, after a fall in take-up due to unfounded fears about side effects, the numbers getting the jab have gone back up to 70pc, although it is still below the 85pc target.

HPV can cause cervical cancer in women. Men who have the HPV virus can get genital warts or oral cancer.

Speaking at the launch, Kevin Brennan, whose late sister Laura became a powerful advocate for the HPV vaccine as she battled cervical cancer in her 20s, said the occasion was a bittersweet moment for his family.

"Laura poured herself into this campaign, knowing every time she told her story it had the potential to save a life.

"The increase in the uptake rates of the HPV vaccine in last year's first-year girls is bittersweet for us. We're delighted that Laura has played a part in helping to protect so many more young people from HPV cancers," he said.

"And the introduction of boys to the vaccination programme is very welcome news too. But we're all very aware of Laura's absence today and how much she would have loved to share this occasion.

"As Laura would say, 'get the facts, get the vaccine. Protect our future'."

Around 60,000 parents are to be sent information packs about the vaccine and are urged to refer to trusted sources such as the website hpv.ie if they need more information.

The Irish Cancer Society nurses can also provide information and advice through the Cancer Nurseline on freephone 1800 200 700.

The minister said he is still considering a catch-up vaccine for older secondary boys who have missed out on the jab.

The catch-up is already in place for girls whose parents have reconsidered their decision and are seeking the vaccine for their daughters.

Irish Independent

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