Roll-out of cervical cancer vaccine to start before school holidays
THE NATIONAL cervical cancer vaccination programme will begin on Monday week and will have started in 21 second-level schools before they take their summer holidays, the Health Service Executive has confirmed.
The start of the programme on May 17th when schools have just two weeks to go before they break for the summer, is an attempt to fulfil Minister for Health Mary Harney’s commitment to start the programme among first-year students in the current school year.
Fine Gael spokesman on health Dr James Reilly welcomed the announcement but said “that the piecemeal nature of the implementation is a cause for concern”.
The vaccine has to be given in three doses over a six-month period and so the 1,500 students being offered the first dose of the vaccine this month will have to return for their second dose in July – during their school holidays which public health specialists say is not ideal – and avail of their third dose in late November.
First-year students not vaccinated before the summer holidays will be vaccinated when schools return in September. And sixth-class students going into second-level schools in September will also be offered the vaccination at that stage.
Public health nurses and doctors have been claiming they have insufficient resources to deliver the vaccination programme, which involves each student getting three jabs over a six-to 12-month period.
Eilish Fitzgerald, a public health nurse in Cork, said yesterday there were shortages of public health nurses in all areas and they had agreed to start vaccinations in 21 schools on a pilot basis but would not be involved in the full roll-out of the programme later in the year unless the moratorium on recruitment was lifted.
She said public health nurses already had a backlog of work, including childhood developmental checks, after being involved in the swine flu vaccination programme.
Dr Kevin Kelleher, head of health protection with the HSE, said the second dose of the vaccine had to be given two months after the first dose and the third had to be given six months after the first dose.
He said the health service would be discussing with unions how the full programme would be rolled out.
Dr Kelleher said the 21 schools were selected on a random basis in urban and rural locations.
Parents of girls being vaccinated this month will receive information packs and consent forms next week.
Parents whose daughters’ vaccinations begin in September will also be sent a flyer from the health service, outlining the programme, their daughter’s start date, and where they can get more information in the meantime.
About 250 women get cervical cancer each year, and 80 women die from it. The HPV vaccination programme, in conjunction with smear testing, is expected to reduce that death toll in coming years.
The HPV vaccine, which is most effective when given before girls become sexually active, guards against the most common, but not all, strains of the HPV virus which causes cervical cancer.
More information on the HPV vaccination programme is available from a dedicated HSE website, hpv.ie
Vaccination Schools Selected
Cervical cancer vaccination to begin at the following 21 schools:
HSE Dublin Mid Leinster
Our Lady’s Grove, Goatstown Road, Dublin 14
Caritas College, Drumfinn
Road, Dublin 10
School, Kildare Town, Co Kildare
St Mary’s Secondary School, Edenderry, Co Offaly
Meán Scoil an Chlochair, Kilbeggan, Mullingar
HSE DUBLIN NORTH EAST
Dominican College, Griffith
Ave, Drumcondra, Dublin 7
St Dominic’s College, Cabra, Dublin 7
Mercy College, Coolock, St Brendan’s Drive, Coolock
Coláiste Pobail, Rath Cairn, Ráth Cairn, Athboy
St Vincent’s Secondary School, Seatown Place, Dundalk
Loreto Convent, Letterkenny, Co Donegal
Ursuline College, Finisklin, Sligo
Naomh Iosaef, Clochar na Trócaire, Caisleán An Bharraigh, Mhaigh Eo
Jesus Mary Secondary School, Salerno Secondary School, Threadneedle Road, Galway
Ennis Community College, Ennis, Co Clare
School, Sexton Street, Limerick
St Ailbe’s School, Rosanna Road, Tipperary Town
St Paul’s Community College, Browne’s Road, Waterford City
St Brigid’s College, Callan, Co Kilkenny
St Mary’s Secondary School, Convent Of Mercy, Mallow
Schull Community College, Colla Road, Schull