Half of girls refuse cancer vaccine, HSE tells Offaly councillors

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Half of girls refuse HPV cancer vaccine Gardasil HSE tells Laois councillors

HPV vaccine rates fall dramatically.

The offer of the HPV vaccine that aims to prevent cervical cancer has been refused by up to half of teenage girls, but the HSE is to mount a big campaign to reverse the dramatic fall.

Offaly councillors have also been told by the HSE that 30% of children are not being vaccinated against measles with the MMR vaccine.

Vaccination rates were raised with the HSE management at the recent Dublin Mid Leinster Health Forum in Tullamore. The HSE was asked if it would indicate if there any plans/proposals to improve the uptake of immunisation rates in the region.

Dr Brenda Corcoran, Consultant in Public Health Medicine at the HSE National Immunisation Office replied on behalf of HSE. She gave details of the decline in the take up among the target group - girls in their 1st year of secondary school.

"There has been a decline in uptake of the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine for the past two academic years. It decreased from 87% in 2014/15 to 72% in 2015/16, and provisional data indicates that only 50% of girls received the 1st dose in Sept/Oct 2016, Dr Corcoran said. 

"This decline is related to unsubstantiated concerns about HPV vaccine safety and is of concern to all involved in cancer prevention. All international and national bodies including the World Health Organization and the European Medicines Agency continually report there is no scientific evidence of an increase in any long term medical condition in vaccinated girls," said the doctor," she added.

The consultant said a comprehensive communications plan targeting those more likely to refuse the Gardasil vaccine is on-going.

"As the next cohort of girls is to be offered the vaccine from September 2017, additional activities (mainstream media, social media and advertising) are planned in the coming months," she said.

Dr Corcoran added that the 2nd round of HPV vaccine has been completed in schools with mop up clinics planned over the summer.

"There was no marked decrease in numbers of girls receiving their second dose of vaccine and there was an estimated 1-5% increase in the number of girls presenting for their 1st dose HPV vaccine," she said.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects girls from developing cervical cancer when they are adults.

The HSE has offered the HPV vaccine to all girls in first year in second level schools since 2010 to protect them from cervical cancer in adulthood. HPV vaccine is offered to this age group because the response to the vaccine is best at this age.

The HSE says the vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organisation; International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee. 

It is available free of charge from the HSE for all girls in 1st year of second level school.

The vaccine is given through a school based programme, to ensure high vaccine uptake. However, in specific instances some girls will be invited to special HSE clinics for their vaccines.

The HSE lets parents know the date the school immunisation team will attend your daughter’s school to give the HPV vaccine. If a student misses the vaccine in school, the HSE will arrange for the student to be vaccinated at a HSE clinic.

The decline in the take up of the vaccine is blamed on several cases where the health of girls have suffered after vaccination.

Dr Corcoran said the HSE national Immunisation Programme aims to prevent the disease in individuals or groups and to achieve the World Health Organisation target uptakes of 95% for childhood vaccines.

She said the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine uptake, which declined to 69% in 2001 due to discredited vaccine safety allegations, has slowly increased to 93% in early 2016 but uptake dropped to 92% from quarter 2 2016.

She said the HSE implements  activities on an ongoing basis to promote immunisation and counter antivaccine campaigns and improve uptake rates.

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