Decision on HPV vaccine for boys expected next year

A decision on the cost- effectiveness of offering the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine to boys is not expected until September next year, it has emerged.

The deputy chief medical officer at the Department of Health, Dr Colette Bonner, said the Health Information and Quality Authority is conducting a health technology assessment of the vaccine.

Dr Bonner told a meeting of the joint committee on health that the evaluation was a lengthy process and, in the meantime, the focus would be on increasing the uptake of the HPV vaccine in girls.

The public health medicine consultant at the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran, said the vaccine uptake rate in Ireland has dropped to 50% for the first of the two doses of HPV but had not dropped any further and appeared to have stabilised.

Dr Corcoran said a comprehensive communications campaign will be launched between now and September, with information presented as clearly as possible.

Dr Bonner said unfounded false claims had been made of an association between the HPV vaccine and some conditions experienced by a group of young women.

“There is no scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term illness. However, this misinformation has led to a significant drop in uptake rates,” she said.

Dr Bonner said people need to be aware that a personal decision not to vaccinate has a wider public impact.

Their decision might put their life and that of their child at risk as well as vulnerable individuals, she said.

“Parents want to do everything possible to make sure their children are healthy and protected from preventable diseases. Vaccination is the best way to do that,” said Dr Bonner.

A study published in the Irish Medical Journal found that five unvaccinated children died from preventable illnesses over a four-year period.

There were 19 unvaccinated children admitted to the paediatric intensive care unit in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin between 2011 and 2015 who lost limbs, suffered seizures and strokes, and needed skin grafts.

Meanwhile, HSE director general Tony O’Brien has defended the health authority’s assistant national director of public health, Dr Kevin Kelleher, who said there was evidence that giving nurses chocolates encouraged them to get the flu vaccine.

Liam Doran, general secretary of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, said Dr Kelleher’s comments were “absolutely objectionable”.

Mr O’Brien tweeted: “Much ado about nothing. Such ideas generated by staff themselves, including nurses, and have been shown to work. Vaccine rates real issue.”

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