Experts advise vaccine take-up for combating HPV virus

With 90 women dying here each year of cervical cancer, a leading health body has said parents can help to save their daughters’ lives by allowing them to be vaccinated against the HPV virus.

Following a “deeply concerning” 15% decrease in the uptake of the HPV vaccine for girls last year, the Royal College of Physicians in Ireland (RCPI) warns the decline in participation is a significant threat to public health.

As the schedule of HPV vaccination gets under way in schools across the country, RCPI has asked parents to allow their daughters to be vaccinated as the jab protects against the two viruses that cause 70% of cervical cancers, HPV 16 and 18.

“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,” said Professor Karina Butler of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

She added that it was important for parents to know that the earlier the vaccination is given, the better.

“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.”

Only 50% of adolescent girls started the recommended vaccine series last year, far lower than the recommended 80% target, according to the RCPI.

The HPV vaccination is safe, effective and proven to reduce the risk of cervical cancer, it added.

In separate studies in Australia and the US, the risk of developing cervical cancer in vaccinated young women fell by up to 90% within six to eight years of introducing the vaccine, according to the RCPI.

The World Health Organisation and European Medicines Agency have investigated reports of adverse events following HPV vaccination, including in Ireland, and found no evidence linking it with chronic fatigue syndrome or any other long-term condition in young girls.

“Their advice is that it is much safer for girls to get the vaccine than to decline it,” the RCPI said.

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