Monday 20 January 2020

Number of girls getting HPV vaccine jab plummets by 9,000

HPV vaccine. Photo: PA
HPV vaccine. Photo: PA

Eilish O’Regan

The number of schoolgirls getting the jab to reduce the risk of cervical cancer plummeted by over 9,000 in the last school year following a safety scare.

New figures show the take-up of the HPV vaccine, offered to 31,272 schoolgirls, fell to 70pc- leaving 9,382 opting out of getting the  jab.

The jab was at the centre of an unfounded scare after a group of concerned parents feared it led to their daughters developing symptoms such as chronic fatigue syndrome, pain and seizures.

However, an investigation by the European Medicines Agency found no evidence of a causal link between the vaccine and the conditions examined.

The Irish Cancer Society is to host the first of two public talks about the HPV vaccine , addressed by leading medical experts, later today.

A spokesman said the experts will “present the facts on the jabs and their effectiveness in preventing cervical cancer.”

The “Decoding Cancer – The HPV Vaccine: Warts and All “ public talks will seek to give a complete picture of the importance of the vaccine, which protects against the major strains of HPV that can cause cervical cancer, he added.

The talks take place in Galway this evening in the Clayton Hotel , Ballybrit between 6:30-7:30pm.Another talk will be held in Cork at the Oriel Hotel in Ballincollig between 6:30-7:30pm.

Prof Margaret Stanley of the University of Cambridge who will speak a the talks  said :“The HPV vaccine is safe and will save lives – the evidence shows this. More than 200 million doses have been delivered to more than 75 million people worldwide.

Large studies looking at 3-4 million women, vaccinated and unvaccinated, found no evidence whatsoever that HPV vaccination causes any immune or nervous system disorder.  Recently in late 2015 the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency concluded that the injection is safe and has no link to any serious illnesses.

“As someone who has worked throughout her professional life to prevent the scourge of cervical cancer in women, I am confident that this vaccine against HPV, the cause of this cancer, can prevent cervical cancers, saving lives and suffering in millions of women around the world.”

The significant drop in take-up last term means 5,000 less girls got the vaccine compared to the 2014-2015 school year.

The Cancer Society said the drop coincides with much media coverage of alleged illnesses caused by the vaccine, which in turn has raised significant safety fears among parents.

“ However, there has been little discussion of the huge potential for this vaccine to help eliminate an important cause of cancer and the proven medical facts pertaining to the safety of this vaccine.

“The Irish Cancer Society is concerned that parents need more information to fully understand the risks of HPV-associated cancers, and need to hear from knowledgeable experts about the vaccine and its safety as they consider giving consent for their daughters to receive this injection.”

“The HPV Vaccine: Warts and All” will seek to give a complete picture of the importance of the HPV vaccination programme by providing access to expert speakers on a local and global scale, he added..

Speakers at the talks in Galway and Cork include:

• Professor Margaret Stanley, OBE, University of Cambridge, whose research focusses on the development of vaccines and immunotherapies against HPV.

• Dr Michael O Leary, Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Galway University Hospital (Galway event).

• Dr Matt Hewitt, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Cork University Maternity Hospital (Cork event).

 In 2016 it is estimated that 90 Irish women will die from cervical cancer. A further 280 will be diagnosed with this serious illness, with four in ten of them succumbing to this disease within five years.

Some 6,500 Irish women will need hospital treatment to remove precancerous growths in their cervix. HPV causes all of these conditions.

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