Tuesday 25 September 2018

Vaccine for cervical cancer refused by 11,000 schoolgirls due to safety fears

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Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than 11,000 schoolgirls last autumn refused the life- saving HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer - but the uptake is still higher than in previous years.

Confidence in the vaccine, which is offered to all schoolgirls in first year of secondary school in two rounds - autumn and spring - dropped in recent years amid unfounded claims about its safety.

Yesterday, the HSE launched the next phase of the vaccine information campaign, which supports parents in making an informed decision to ensure their daughters get the vaccine.

Speaking at yesterday's launch, Laura Brennan (25), from Co Clare, spoke of how she had been diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer.

"There is no treatment that will cure my cancer, only treatment that will now prolong my life," she said. "I didn't get the HPV vaccine - it wasn't available in schools when I was a teenager so my parents didn't have the choice. If anything good comes from my situation, I hope that parents consider this - get the facts, get informed and make the decision to get their daughters vaccinated. The HPV vaccine saves lives. It could have saved mine."

Newstalk radio presenter and GP Dr Ciara Kelly yesterday joined public-health experts in urging parents to have their teenage daughters avail of the jab in the upcoming round.

"It is very clear that this is a vaccine that works and is safe," she said.

The HSE is also offering a 'catch-up' programme for girls who are still in secondary school and did not have the vaccination in first year.

The latest figures show the uptake is still at just 62pc, although this is an improvement on the previous year, when 51pc availed of the vaccine.

"I had no hesitation in giving this vaccine to my daughter and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my patients," Dr Kelly said.

"If you have a daughter in first year, I recommend you consent to her getting the vaccine.

"If your daughter has missed the vaccine, the good news is it's not too late to sign her up.

"Do your research. You can trust the information on www.hpv.ie."

Around 300 women in Ireland develop cervical cancer annually, and 90 women die from the disease.

Irish Independent

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