Schoolgirls offered second chance to get cervical cancer vaccine

HSE says uptake of HPV jab fell from 87% to 50% due to ‘unsubstantiated’ safety claims

A doctor gives an HPV vaccination to a teenage girl.  Thousands of schoolgirls who did not get the cervical cancer vaccine last autumn are to be offered a second chance to receive it in the coming weeks. Photograph:  Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

A doctor gives an HPV vaccination to a teenage girl. Thousands of schoolgirls who did not get the cervical cancer vaccine last autumn are to be offered a second chance to receive it in the coming weeks. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

 

Thousands of schoolgirls who did not get the cervical cancer vaccine last autumn are to be offered a second chance to receive it in the coming weeks, the Health Service Executive (HSE) has said.

The HSE is offering a “catch-up opportunity” for the HPV vaccine against the cancer when immunisation teams revisit first-year classes to provide a second dose.

The uptake of the vaccine plummeted from a high of 87 per cent to 50 per cent last autumn due to a campaign of opposition based on what the HSE asserts are “unsubstantiated” safety concerns.

Brenda Corcoran, head of the HSE’s immunisation office, said it was not too late for first-year girls who missed out on the first dose to be offered the vaccine again in March.

The Regret (Reactions and Effects of Gardasil resulting in Extreme Trauma) group, claims to represent over 350 young Irish women who have developed long-term side effects after receiving the HPV vaccination. It claims recipients developed seizures, fatigue and joint pain after immunisation.

‘Scare stories’

Dr Corcoran said “scare stories” had made parents genuinely afraid to consent to the vaccine but “there are no ‘alternative facts’ that stand up to even the most basic medical or scientific scrutiny”.

“Unfortunately, there are some naturally occurring conditions that can make teenage girls unwell, but WHO and every national regulatory body in the world have said 100 per cent that the HPV vaccine does not cause any of the alleged long-term conditions,” she said. “In fact, international studies have found that the alleged side effects are just as common in people who have never received the HPV vaccine at all.”

Dr Corcoran stressed the positive benefits of vaccination. Every year, 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer and 90 die from the disease. A further 6,500 Irish women are diagnosed with pre-cancerous abnormalities of the cervix caused by HPV.

In Australia, one of the first countries to introduce the HPV vaccine in 2007, it has prevented one in every two cervical cancers and pre-cervical cancer cases have dropped by 75 per cent in a decade.