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With school vaccination teams now in second-level schools administering the vaccine to first year girls, the latest phase of the HSE Vaccine Information Campaign is already underway.
Dr Sean Denyer, Interim Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, described the 15 per cent increase in the uptake rate as “extremely encouraging.”
“We know this vaccine is safe; we know it works and we are now seeing the majority of parents throughout the country move to protect their daughters. We understood that parents wanted to do the right thing for their children, so we set out to provide them with scientifically and evidence-based information.
“We encouraged them to speak directly with the school vaccination teams, their local GPs and their local pharmacists. We provided a trusted source of information through hpv.ie. Clearly they have responded and now as we move into a new school year with a new group of first year girls, we are reaching out to a new set of parents, inviting them to access information through those same trust sources and encouraging them to ensure their daughters are vaccinated. We are also reminding parents that a catch-up facility is available so anyone who may have hesitated previously can contact our schools teams and get their daughter vaccinated.”
Ms Laura Brennan, patient advocate, whose advocacy has been pivotal to the ongoing success in achieving higher vaccine uptake rates, commented: “My only reason for getting involved in this campaign was my desire to save other families from going through what mine are going through, to save other parents from watching their child suffer from a preventable illness, caused by a virus which the majority of people in this room have had or will have at some point in their life. I was just unlucky that I caught a cancer-causing strain of the virus and my body couldn’t fight it off. That’s why I got cervical cancer. “
On the latest uptake rate, she said: “Sixty-five per cent isn’t where I want the vaccine rates to be, but I do understand that that figure is likely to rise once all the figures are validated. As everyone knows I won’t be happy until as many of our girls are protected as possible. But it is going in the right direction. It shows that once again the people of Ireland are listening to reason and using reality and evidence as a basis for their decision making.”
Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “Prevention is better than cure, and this is especially true of cervical cancer. We are lucky to have a vaccine that can potentially prevent 70 per cent of cervical cancers, and I am very pleased to say that our increased provisional uptake figures last year have been internationally recognised. This very welcome increase reflects the huge amount of work being done across the medical community, including school vaccination teams, GPs and pharmacists, to provide accurate and trusted information.
“Extending the national immunisation schedule to include HPV vaccination of boys is a priority for me, and subject to a favourable recommendation from HIQA, the Government will seek to extend this vaccine universally as a priority. Today, I want to be unequivocal again in saying that the HPV vaccine protects young people’s lives and I urge parents to vaccinate their daughters this autumn.”