HPV vaccine to be given to all first year students in secondary school

Vaccine will now also be given to boys in what Harris called ‘important milestone’

The HPV vaccine for boys will be rolled out from next week for the first time, Minister for Health Simon Harris will announce on Tuesday.

The HPV vaccine will now be given to all first year students in secondary school. Mr Harris has hailed the roll-out of the boy’s vaccine as “an important milestone”.

HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer, and other cancers in both women and men. The vaccine now protects against 9 out of 10 HPV cancers, the Department of Health has said.

Because the HPV virus can cause cancers and conditions in boys too, the Government announced the decision to extend the vaccine from September onwards.


Mr Harris will say that the announcement represents a "milestone on the path to . . . the effective eradication of cervical cancer . . . In all that we do to advance that goal, we continue to be inspired by one incredible woman who is sadly no longer with us. Associated by many with the simple phrase, 'thank you, Laura', it is always with great gratitude that we remember Laura Brennan. "

Brennan was the inspirational HPV campaigner from Co Clare who died last March at the age of 26.

“We might have been launching this latest campaign with uptake for the vaccine still as low as 50 per cent. But thanks to Laura’s passionate advocacy, we are building now from an increased rate of 70 per cent,” the Minister will say.

The vaccine was the subject of a vigorous campaign of opposition by parents’ groups several years ago. Uptake declined substantially over the three years for which data is available: from 87 per cent in 2014/2015 to 72 per cent in 2015/2016 and 51 per cent in the 2016/2017 academic year.

In 2017 and 2018 an information campaign was launched featuring vaccinated girls, supported by the HPV Vaccination Alliance, the HSE, the Department of Health and Minister for Health.

‘Vaccine alliance’

Mr Harris recently wrote to Attorney General Seamus Wolfe seeking advice about the possible constitutionality of introducing mandatory vaccination schemes in schools. It is understood he received early advice – which has yet to be made public – on the issue.

A new “vaccine alliance” will also be launched in a fortnight which will bring together clinicians, policymakers, patient advocates and educators.

Mr Harris will also remind parents that it is not too late for girls who missed the vaccine in previous years to get it. “Any parents who have reconsidered their decision and are seeking the vaccine for their daughters can use the HSE catch-up service.”

HPV vaccination has also been offered to HIV positive men and women under the age of 26 since through HIV clinics. Since January 2017, HPV vaccination has been offered to men who have sex with men aged 16 to 26.

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray

Jennifer Bray is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times