Wicklow TD, Minister Simon Harris joined the HSE today, Tuesday, to launch the 2019/20 schools HPV vaccine programme. The HPV vaccine is now being given to all first year students in secondary school, including girls and, for the first time, boys.
HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer, and other cancers in both women and men. The HPV vaccine will protect young people from HPV related cancers when they grow up. The uptake of the HPV vaccine has a participation rate of approximately 70%, which is an increase of 20% points since 2017.
The increase is in no small part due to the tireless work of HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan. Laura’s family are continuing her work following her death six months ago and were in attendance at today’s launch. Speaking at the event her brother, Kevin Brennan said “Laura poured herself into this campaign, knowing every time she told her story; it had the potential to save a life. The increase in the uptake rates of the HPV vaccine in last year’s first year girls is bittersweet for us – we’re delighted that Laura has played a part in helping to protect so many more young people from HPV cancers. And the introduction of the boys to the vaccination programme is very welcome news too. But we’re all very aware of Laura’s absence today and how much she would have loved to share this occasion.
As Laura would say, Get the Facts, Get the Vaccine. Protect Our Future.”
With high uptake of the HPV vaccine there is the potential to save 112 lives each year by preventing the most common strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and other cancers. The HPV vaccine now protects against 9 out of 10 HPV cancers. The HPV virus can cause cancers and conditions that can affect boys too, making it extremely important for all young people to get the vaccine. This year Ireland will join over 20 other countries including the UK in giving HPV vaccine to boys and girls in 1st year of secondary school.
Endorsing the Vaccination Programme, Minister for Health Mr. Simon Harris T.D. noted:
I am delighted to launch this year’s HPV vaccine programme, including boys for the first time. Today is an important milestone on the path to our ultimate goal – the effective eradication of cervical cancer. In all that we do to advance that goal, we continue to be inspired by one incredible woman who is sadly no longer with us. Associated by many with the simple phrase ‘Thank you, Laura’, it is always with great gratitude that we remember Laura Brennan.
We might have been launching this latest campaign with uptake for the vaccine still as low as 50%. But thanks to Laura’s passionate advocacy, we are building now from an increased rate of 70%. Laura’s work has been so important and highlights why it remains so vital that parents are provided with accurate and credible information to help them to make a fully informed decision concerning HPV vaccination. Get the facts at www.immunisation.ie and ensure that they receive this life-saving vaccine.
I would also like to remind parents that it is not too late for girls who missed the vaccine in previous years. Any parents who have reconsidered their decision and are seeking the vaccine for their daughters can use the HSE catch-up service.”
Announcing the commencement of the Schools Programme, Dr. Lucy Jessop, Director of the National Immunisation Office, HSE, stated:
“We are now coming into a time where we could eliminate certain types of cancer caused by the HPV virus and what a great legacy this would be to leave our children and grandchildren. We can only achieve this by continuing to work together to share the facts about HPV vaccine and the HPV virus and ensuring high uptake of the HPV vaccine as part of the HSE school immunisation programme. I encourage parents to read the information from the HSE and speak to a trusted health professional if they have any questions before signing the consent form for their child.”
Dr Jessop also confirmed that over 60,000 information packs will be delivered across the country this week in advance of the HSE Vaccination Teams starting their scheduled post primary school visits in September where all first year students will get the first of two doses of the vaccine.
Minister Harris continued:
“Protecting the future health of our children and young people is a key goal of Healthy Ireland. It is encouraging to see an increase in the uptake of the HPV vaccine but we can do better. That is why this campaign is so important. It provides vital information and sends out a clear message that this vaccine can prevent cervical cancer and save lives. I warmly welcome the rollout of the HPV vaccine to boys this September, and I urge all parents to have their children vaccinated so that we can move closer to eliminating cervical cancer, and protect our sons and daughters from a range of other cancers in the future.”
The HSE is also promoting new and informative videos online and on social media, in order to support parents’ decision to get their children vaccinated. The videos feature real families who have either received the vaccine or who will be getting vaccinated in the coming year. Participants include the Daly family from Cork, the Houston Family from Donegal, Amanda Kenny and her son Charlie from Dublin and Stuart Teehan and his son Fionn, from Wicklow.
The vaccine is endorsed by major medical and scientific bodies worldwide including the World Health Organization, the Centres for Disease Control in the USA, the EU funded European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.