Controversy over vaccine


A chara, – Theresa Heaney (December 14th) wonders “why have parents not been told that Hiqa says the vaccine does not guarantee protection against cervical cancer with this vaccine?”

As any medic will confirm, no vaccine is guaranteed to protect completely against disease. Vaccines are administered because they reduce the infection rate or the virulence of a disease or both.

In the case of the HPV vaccines, the Hiqa report makes it clear that the HPV vaccines substantially reduce the precursors of several common varieties of cervical cancer, and separately that lowering the incidence of these precursors is known to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer.

However, because cervical cancers often have an incubation period of many years longer than the two HPV vaccines have been available on the market, Hiqa cannot claim that they directly protect against invasive cancer, even if the circumstantial evidence is strong enough for the HSE to use their report as the basis of a national vaccination program at a time of harsh cutbacks in other areas of the health service.

Coupled with the cervical cancer screening and treatment programmes, the HSE’s efforts to deal with this devastating condition should be applauded. – Is mise,


De Courcey Square,


Dublin 9.