Sunday 19 January 2020

Parents told to ignore 'fake news' over teen HPV jabs

Left to right: Orla O’Connor, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Donal Buggy, Irish Cancer
Society, and Tanya Ward, Children’s Rights Alliance, during a briefing to sign a Contract
against Cancer. Photo: Gareth Chaney
Left to right: Orla O’Connor, National Women’s Council of Ireland, Donal Buggy, Irish Cancer Society, and Tanya Ward, Children’s Rights Alliance, during a briefing to sign a Contract against Cancer. Photo: Gareth Chaney

Allison Bray

A coalition of more than 30 health, children's and women's groups is urging parents to disregard the 'fake news' about the virtually non-existent side-effects to the HPV vaccine that can save hundreds of Irish women a year from developing cancer.

Citing the alarming 50pc drop in the uptake of the free vaccine among teenage girls in Ireland last year due to a misinformation campaign spread on the internet and social media, the HPV Vaccination Alliance was launched in Dublin yesterday.

Members, including the Irish Cancer Society, the Irish Medical Organisation and the National Women's Council of Ireland, are urging parents to ignore the erroneous hype about the vaccine and have their teenage daughters - and sons - vaccinated before they become sexually active.

The Gardasil vaccine protects the body against the human papilloma virus (HPV), which is a group of 170 similar viruses that are spread through sexual and skin-to-skin contact. Some 18 strains can go on to trigger cancers of the cervix, vulva and vagina in women as well as cancers of the penis, anus and rectum in men.

Both men and women can also develop cancers of the anus, throat, neck and mouth due to HPV exposure.

Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society (ICS), said 420 cases of HPV-related cancers had been diagnosed this year alone, while an average of 90 Irish women a year die from cervical cancer. "For the first time in our lifetime there is a means to eradicate this cancer," he said.

Due to an online campaign by some well-meaning but misinformed parents, symptoms of illnesses such as chronic fatigue have been wrongly linked with the vaccine, said Dr Robert O'Connor, head of research at the ICS. "If people go into Google, they'll immediately see these things. They don't appreciate they have no basis in fact whatsoever," he said.

Irish Independent

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