FORTY YOUNG GIRLS will die of cervical cancer as a result of the falling uptake in the HPV vaccine, said Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell.
“Due to various factors, including a fairly aggressive social media campaign and various claims about side effects of the vaccine, we are now heading towards an uptake rate of under 50%, which is very concerning, because it is completely in breach of the concept of herd immunity,” she told the Oireachtas Health Committee yesterday.
O’Connell, who is pharmacist, said that when the former Minister of Health Mary Harney introduced the vaccine, it was expected the uptake would be about 80%.
Minister for Health Simon Harris said from the years 2014 -2015, there was an 87% uptake in the vaccine – the highest since the programme began in 2010.
Drop in uptake of the vaccine
While the minister said he does not have the final figures for 2015 -2016, preliminary figures released by the HSE indicate that about 5,000 fewer girls received the vaccine in this period in comparison to the previous year.
This significant decline varies around the country, with western and southern counties most affected, said the minister.
“I am very much aware of the misinformation that is out there… I am extremely concerned about the impact this is having on the health and wellbeing of the women in this country,” added Harris.
He said it was “extremely regrettable”, stating that about 100 die of cervical cancer in Ireland every year.
O’Connell said the vaccine introduced the “possibility of eradicating cervical cancer for the likes of my young daughters”.
She said the next phase of the vaccine was to be introduced for young boys.
O’Connell said there has been a “huge rise” in head, neck, anal and genital cancers in men.
“Young boys in this country as a result of a campaign are not being vaccinated. There is a sense of inequality there… the boys are not getting what we had planned to give them,” she said.
The minister said he wanted to put on the record his absolute support for the HPV vaccine.
Harris urged parents to inform themselves about the vaccine by visiting the HSE website which provides information about the virus and the vaccine. He said the information has been accredited by the World Health Organisation, amongst many other international expert groups.