Uptake in HPV vaccine by 20 per cent

Aoibhín Meghen

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The uptake of the HPV vaccine has increased by 20 per cent over the last two years, making a future without cervical cancer all the more likely according to the HSE.

Uptake of the vaccine now stands at 70 percent.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination programme began in Ireland in 2010 for first-year secondary school girls in order to reduce the risk of cervical cancer. A catch-up programme was also provided for sixth-year students until 2014.

The vaccines, which are administered in three doses are designed to prevent up to nine types of the HPV virus. Each dose protects against HPV type 16 and 18 which are closely linked to the development of cervical cancer.

It is the hopes of the HSE that they can manage to eradicate cervical cancer through the administration of the HPV vaccine. Scotland has had a HPV vaccination programme for the last 10 years and as a result, the number of cervical cancer cases between women aged 20 to 24 has reduced by 69 per cent.

“It has been well articulated in recent months that eliminating cervical cancer is now an achievable goal, nationally and internationally,” said Dr Lucy Jessop, Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office to the Irish Examiner.

Minister for Health Simon Harris also commented on the exceptionally high uptake for this vaccine saying that despite the recent rise of anti-vaxxers spreading dangerous myths about the safety of vaccinations, women are still taking part in the process.

Despite this progress, there is still a lot of misinformation surrounding HPV as many believe that it is only women who are affected by the virus.

In fact men are at just as much risk of contracting HPV which could lead to genital cancer, however, the immunisation scheme is currently only offered to girls.

In July 2018 the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) made a recommendation to The Department of Health that the vaccine programme be extended to boys but there is yet to be a decision.

Ireland also has a cervical cancer screening programme called Cervical Check which invites women from the age of 25 to attend regular cervical screenings in order to assess the risk of future development of cancer.

HPV is the most common form of the sexually transmitted disease, most sexually active people will contract it at some point, and it can be caught by having intimate contact with someone already carrying the virus.

Most forms of HPV will go away on their own however if it doesn’t clear up itself that is when there is a risk of developing cervical cancer.

Author: Aoibhín Meghen

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