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HSE launches HPV vaccination programme for all first year secondary school students

The HSE has launched 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.

The uptake of the HPV vaccine has a participation rate of approximately 70 per cent, which is an increase of 20 per cent points since 2017. 

According to the HSE, the increase is in no small part due to the tireless work of HPV vaccine campaigner Laura Brennan, who died six months ago.

Speaking at the event her brother, Mr 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.

Endorsing the vaccination programme, Minister for Health Simon Harris 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 per cent.  But thanks to Laura’s passionate advocacy, we are building now from an increased rate of 70 per cent. 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… 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.

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.

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. 

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