Concern over maintaining uptake of cervical cancer jab

A WOMEN’S health clinic is concerned that a crucial high uptake of the cervical cancer vaccine may be difficult to maintain when it is rolled out nationwide in September.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has reported an 80% uptake in the cervical cancer vaccine by first year girls offered the jab before the summer holidays.

Well Woman chief executive Alison Begas said the programme had got off to a good start but warned that the initial target group was very small.

“We have always said that the aid of any smear testing or vaccination programme would not be successful unless the take-up was at least 80%,” she said.

The HSE has confirmed that 1,300 girls in 21 schools received the first of three doses of the vaccine in May.

Appointments have been given for the second vaccination that will take place in HSE clinics in July.

All other schools will start the vaccine programme in September and Well Woman that operated a successful pilot scheme in north Dublin last year is urging girls to make sure they get the jab.

Meanwhile, the Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) has warned that the roll out of the cervical cancer vaccine would require stopping or curtailing ongoing child health initiatives.

The IMO said a ministerial order would be required for doctors to drop public health programmes, otherwise they would be unable to undertake the cervical vaccination programme.

And a review conducted by the National Cancer Screening Service (NCSS) has found that less than 6% of letters inviting women to undergo a free cervical smear test were returned unopened.

Between September 1, 2009, and May 14, 2010, the service’s CervicalCheck issued more than 1.2m letters to women aged 25 to 60. A total of 52,069 letters were returned unopened.

The review found that 98% of returned letters that were sent to 25,480 women were invitation or reminder letters, inviting recipients to arrange a free smear test.

In more than 94% of instances, however, the invitation or recall letter was received by the intended recipient.

The NCSS said the failure rate of within 6% of invitations was within acceptable norms considering the current transient nature of the target population and increased emigration.


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