Schoolgirl vaccine uptake of 82% beats target figures

Sat, Jan 7, 2012, 00:00

A VACCINE that protects girls against cervical cancer in later life had an uptake of 82 per cent during the first year of the vaccination campaign.

The Health Service Executive said yesterday that some 48,500 out of the 59,000 eligible schoolgirls received the vaccine, just ahead of target figures.

The vaccination programme against the human papillomavirus (HPV) began in May 2010 for girls in first and second year at school.

There is a catch-up programme for all sixth-year girls that will continue for the next three years.

About 250 women get cervical cancer each year in Ireland, and about 80 women die from it. The roll-out of the vaccine is projected to reduce the death toll dramatically over the coming decades.

Dr Kevin Kelleher, assistant national director of health protection at the HSE, welcomed the high uptake.

The 82 per cent uptake was “excellent” and was equal to or greater than those achieved in the first year of programmes in other countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia. He said the figures were great credit to the vaccination teams.

Of those who received the first dose of the vaccine, some 97 per cent went on to to complete the three-dose schedule.

Separate figures show that there have been just under 500 adverse reactions associated with use of the vaccine up to the end of November last year.

The Irish Medicines Board (IMB), which monitors drug safety, said the majority of reports were “non-serious and consistent with the expected pattern of adverse effects for the vaccine”.

“No new safety concerns have been identified during monitoring of national use and the balance of benefits and risks for Gardasil remains positive,” the board said.

The most commonly reported effects were dizziness or headache. Other commonly reported symptoms included malaise, gastro-intestinal symptoms, along with skin and injection site reactions.

Parents were sent information packs and asked to sign consent forms for the vaccine. Most vaccinations were administered in schools,without charge.

The Government reversed a decision not to roll out the vaccine at the start of 2010 after initially claiming it could not afford to do.

However drug companies agreed to lower their prices for the jab.

The cost of the programme – including the vaccine and administration costs – were eventually reduced by several million euro.