The uptake of the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer has risen to 70 per cent, a rise of 20 percentage points in just over two years, according to the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The latest figures mark a further recovery in demand for the vaccine, which was the subject of a vigorous campaign of opposition by parents’ groups several years ago.
Despite the absence of any scientific basis for claims linking the vaccine to chronic illness among some girls, uptake of the vaccine dipped to just 50 per cent at one point. There is still some way to go for demand to fully recover for the vaccine, which enjoyed an uptake of more than 80 per cent after it was introduced for teenage girls in 2010.
HSE vaccination teams are currently administering the second dose of the vaccine to girls in first year of second-level school around the country.
Dr Lucy Jessop, head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, described the latest figures as "extremely encouraging".
“It has been well articulated in recent months that eliminating cervical cancer is now an achievable goal, nationally and internationally,” she said. “If we continue on this path and continue to increase our uptake rates, we can look forward to future generations living in a world where this cancer is eradicated.”
Dr Jessop advised parents seeking advice to speak directly with school vaccination teams, their local GPs and their local pharmacists.
"It is so important that parents access trusted sources of information. Our website hpv.ie continues to be updated and continues to act as an excellent resource for everyone seeking information."
A catch up facility is available for girls still in secondary school who have not received the vaccine.
The vaccine is to also be offered to teenage boys from next September after the initiative was recommended by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa). Another proposal by Hiqa, that the existing vaccine, which protects against four types of HPV, should be replaced by a vaccine giving wider protection against nine types of the virus, will also be introduced this year.
Infection with Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is implicated in a number of cancers, including cervical, vaginal, anal and penile cancer, as well as anogenital warts.
HPV vaccination has also been offered to HIV positive men and women under the age of 26 since 2016 through HIV clinics. Since January 2017, HPV vaccination has been offered to men who have sex with men (MSM) aged 16 to 26.