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NIAC’s call to parents follows a 15% fall in the uptake of the HPV vaccine for girls in 2015/2016 which they say is of grave concern, and is a significant threat to public health. In 2016, only 50% of adolescent girls started the recommended vaccine series. These rates are far below the recommended 80% target.
As the vaccine is more effective the earlier it is given, we encourage all parents to have their daughters complete the recommended schedule of HPV vaccines: a two-dose HPV vaccine series before age 15, or three doses in those older than 15. We also encourage all health care providers to be advocates for cancer prevention by making strong recommendations for childhood HPV vaccination. “It is so tragic to see a young woman, often at the age when their family is still young, battling for her life against what is now a vaccine preventable cancer.”
Dr Karina ButlerChair, National Immunisation Advisory Committee
The HPV vaccine protects against two types of viruses, HPV 16 and 18, the cause of 70% of cervical cancers. Approximately 300 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed in Ireland each year; 90 of those result in loss of life. The vaccine also protects against other cancers such as anal, oropharyngeal (mouth and throat) and other genital cancers affecting men and women. At least 70% of these cancers can be prevented by the HPV vaccine.
In separate studies in Australia and the US, within 6 -8 years of introduction of the vaccine, the prevalence of HPV 16 and 18 infections among young women decreased by 86% -90%, dramatically reducing the risk of developing cervical cancer for these women.
It is heart-breaking to see the traumatic impact of cervical cancer on young women and their families, particularly as they were not lucky enough to have access to a vaccine program. It is imperative that we protect future generations against this preventable disease by utilising the HPV vaccination program. Cervical cancer is a devastating diagnosis for women and their families. Treatment can include radical surgery or a combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Although sometimes successful, these treatments can have many long term consequences including loss of fertility, bladder, bowel and sexual dysfunction. Although cervical screening using smear tests can detect and treat many pre-cancerous lesions, these treatments can be associated with significant psychological morbidity and can complicate future pregnancies.
Professor Donal BrennanConsultant Obstetrician and Gynaecological Oncologist
Experts in the World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) have looked closely at all reports of adverse events following HPV vaccination, including in Ireland, and found no evidence to show that the vaccine is linked to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in young girls. Their advice is that it is much safer for girls to get the vaccine than to decline it.
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