Bishop’s views on HPV vaccine

Sir, – Given the recent comments surrounding the unsubstantiated risks associated with the HPV vaccine Gardasil, it is worth considering how the process of national vaccination programmes has transformed the health, wellbeing and life expectancy of the population.

In 1950 in Ireland, 50,000 people were diagnosed with measles; in 2015, there were a total of 40 cases reported. While there were 500 reported cases each of polio and diphtheria in 1950, there were zero cases in 2015.

In more recent decades the introduction of vaccines targeting meningococcal meningitis has saved many lives and the incidence of this disease has been greatly reduced.

For the best example of the transformative nature of vaccination programmes, consider smallpox. Between 1900 and its eventual eradication in 1978, smallpox is estimated to have killed 300 million people worldwide. Now, due to successful global vaccination programmes, we no longer live overshadowed by the constant fear of death or disfigurement from smallpox.


Full uptake of the HPV vaccine will ensure that the approximately 80 per cent of cervical cancer cases caused by infection with HPV are similarly consigned to being a distant historical memory.

The protective role of HPV vaccination is also being considered for other cancers, such as head and neck cancers, where the HPV virus is a known risk factor.

By vaccinating, parents can now significantly reduce the likelihood of their daughters being faced with this terrifying diagnosis, of then having to undergo traumatic and debilitating treatment regimes, with an uncertain outcome.

Given the lack of scientific basis for the claims of groups such as Regret that the vaccine increases the risk of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), given that fact that the incidence of CFS in the teenage cohort remains comparable to that recorded prior to the vaccine being introduced, this is clearly not a numbers game to gamble your daughter’s life on. – Yours, etc,


Executive Committee,

The Irish Society

for Immunology,

University College Cork.

Sir, – It appears to be timely to remind Dr Alphonsus Cullinan, the Catholic bishop of Waterford and Lismore, that his doctorate is in moral theology – and not medicine. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.

Sir, – According to the Health Behaviour in School-aged Children (HBSC) study, 26 per cent of adolescents aged 15 to 18 years have engaged in sexual intercourse. Contrary to what Bishop Phonsie Cullinan says, promotion of abstinence is not an effective method of discouraging teenage sex or sexually transmitted infections.

Large studies in the United States, which has a federally funded abstinence programme, have shown no delay in initiation of sexual activity in teens receiving abstinence education, and no difference in rate of sexually transmitted infections.

Bishop Cullinan is also incorrect regarding the efficacy of the HPV vaccine, which provides nearly 100 per cent protection against persistent cervical infections with HPV 16 and 18 and is 97 per cent effective in preventing cancers caused by HPV 6, 11, 16, and 18.

Australia was one of the first countries to introduce the HPV vaccine and it has seen a decrease of more than 50 per cent in rates of pre-cancer of the cervix.

With over 200 million doses given worldwide, we know the vaccine is safe with no serious side-effects scientifically attributed to it.

In Ireland, it is estimated that there are 420 HPV-related cancers in women and men each year, with most preventable by HPV vaccination. – Yours, etc,



Specialist Registrar

in Gynaecology,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Directly below your article "Catholic bishop claims cervical cancer vaccine 'only 70% safe'" that appeared on your website on September 28th, you call on readers to subscribe to your service using the tagline "Facts have no agenda. Real news has value".

Do the alternative facts quoted in the article about vaccines really have no agenda?

When you use a headline that makes a claim about medical efficacy by someone so woefully unqualified to comment on medical matters, do you expect us to call it real news?

Or do we get to call it what it really is? Fake news based on fake facts from an unqualified and biased source. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 6.

Sir, – The article on the bishop’s views on the cervical cancer vaccine should not have appeared in the health section of your website.

It belongs in the religious affairs section.

Or, better still, in the bin. – Yours, etc,



Co Galway.

Sir, – Sometimes I get all wistful about the Catholic Church, wondering have we thrown out the baby with the bath water in its steep decline.

And then something or someone comes along and jolts me back to my senses.

For the most recent example, I must thank Bishop Cullinan.

The most despicable thing about his criticism of the cervical cancer vaccine is that he plants that old chestnut, loved by cigarette companies and climate change deniers, that there’s some “conflicting opinions”.

Thank you, Bishop Cullinan, for reminding me of why the church had it coming. – Yours, etc,