HPV vaccine fears put to rest with safety report

Parents whose daughters are being offered the cervical cancer vaccine in school this year have been reassured by a new report on its safety.

The Irish Medicines Board carried out a review of the Gardasil vaccine which was first given to first-year and second-year girls in schools from May last year.

It concluded: "The balance of benefits and risks for the vaccine is positive," the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) concluded.

It is planned that up to 28,000 schoolgirls in sixth year are to be offered the cervical cancer vaccine from September after a decision to roll out a catch-up programme.

It is to be expanded outside girls in first year in order to make sure older pupils will not miss the chance of getting the jab.

In addition it will continue to be offered to first year girls again from this term.

Cervical cancer is the second most common form of the disease among women aged 15 to 44 years and HPV, or Human Papillomavirus, is proven as a cause.

The IMB had previously asked doctors and health professionals to report any reactions.

It said the reports were in line with the known safety profile of the vaccine. While any suspect or serious adverse reactions will continue to be reported, routine reporting of reactions are no longer needed.

At least 145,000 doses of the vaccine were administered up to last June.

Among these there were 416 reports of complications. Most of them were not serious and kept to the expected pattern of adverse effects for the vaccine.

They included dizziness or headache, gastrointestinal symptoms and skin reactions around the injection site.

It received five reports of seizure, two of them in epilepsy sufferers.

The vaccine protects against the main cancer-causing strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and will eventually save around 60 lives in Ireland every year.

The latest figures available from the National Cancer Registry Ireland show that 286 women were diagnosed with cervical cancer in 2007. More than one in two were under the age of 39 years.

Eighty-one women died from the disease in that year.

The vaccine will prevent at least 70pc of these cases.

Around 80pc of those offered the vaccine so far have availed of it.

Parents are due to receive a detailed booklet and consent form. It will be sent out to the school before the vaccinations begin.

Parents can also get more information at www.hpv.ie.