AS the nationwide vaccination of schoolgirls against cervical cancer commenced, the Health Service Executive reported an 80% take-up of a second dose offered to around 1,500 girls in July.
A HSE spokeswoman said they were “quite happy” with the take-up of the vaccine during the summer, which was high by international standards.
There had been concern that the school holidays would interrupt participation by schoolgirls in the initial stage of the programme that began last June.
All three doses of the vaccine should be given within one year – the second dose should be administered at least one month after the first and the third should be administered at least three months after the second dose.
The HSE said the vaccine would help protect more than 57,000 schoolgirls from developing the cancer as adults.
The vaccine – Gardasil – is free of charge and is being offered to all girls attending first and second year in secondary schools.
Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, Dr Brenda Corcoran, said the vaccine would eventually save around 60 lives in Ireland every year.
“Even though it will take time for the impact of the vaccination programme to be seen, this vaccine will help protect the future health of this generation of young girls and the generations to come,” she said.
Dr Corcoran said cervical cancer was the second most common cancer in Ireland among women aged 15 to 44.
“Human Papilloma Virus, is proven to cause cervical cancer. It is a common virus – about 80% of people will have a HPV infection during their lifetime.
“Around 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer here annually, with around 80 deaths. The HPV vaccine will prevent at least 70% of these cases,” she pointed out.
Dr Corcoran said they had seen a high uptake of the vaccine so far and were confident that this could continue. Most of the vaccinations will be administered in schools by HSE immunisation teams, with some girls being invited to HSE clinics for their vaccine.
Parents will receive an information pack and consent form from the HSE, via the school.
“Giving your daughter the HPV vaccine is safe, is very worthwhile and will protect her now, for her future,” said Dr Corcoran.
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