The uptake rate for the HPV vaccine has increased to 70%, up from just 50% two years ago, the HSE has said.
According to Dr Lucy Jessop, head of the HSE's National Immunisation Office, these figures are ‘extremely encouraging'.
"It is important that Ireland has achieved such a marked increase in such a relatively short period of time. It has been well articulated in recent months that eliminating cervical cancer is now an achievable goal, nationally and internationally. If we continue on this path and continue to increase our uptake rates, we can look forward to future generations living in a world where this cancer is eradicated," she commented.
HPV is a family of common viruses that are passed on via sexual contact. There are many types of HPV, most of which are harmless and go away on their own. However, some strains can be serious, such as those that cause certain types of cancer and pre-cancerous lesions, including cervical cancer, penile cancer and anal cancer.
In an effort to combat this, the HSE offers the HPV vaccination to girls in their first year of secondary school. HSE vaccination teams are this month returning to schools to administer the second dose of the vaccine to first-year girls.
Meanwhile, from September 2019, boys in first year will also be offered the vaccine.
Responding to the figures, Dr Jessop took the opportunity to thank Laura Brennan for her work as a HPV vaccine patient advocate. Ms Brennan, who is from Co Clare, contacted the HSE in 2017 and first provided her support to the HSE HPV Vaccine Information Campaign in April 2018. Since then, she has worked tirelessly to raise awareness of the importance of getting vaccinated.
She was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer at the age of just 25.
"Laura is an incredible young woman whose intelligence, determination and fearless advocacy over the past 18 months have undoubtedly influenced parents in making the important decision to vaccinate and protect their daughters," Dr Jessop insisted.
Responding to the figures, Ms Brennan said that she was ‘delighted' that the uptake rate had increased to 70%.
"That means seven in 10 of this year's first year girls that have received the first dose of the HPV vaccine and are now due the next dose. I'm thrilled that people are listening to the reality of what life with cervical cancer is really like and finding out for themselves that this vaccine is safe and effective. Along with cervical screening, it's the best tool that we have to help us move towards eradicating cervical cancer," she said.
A HSE media campaign has begun this week to coincide with the arrival of HSE vaccination teams into secondary schools.
Dr Jessop emphasised that it is essential that parents access ‘trusted sources of information', such as their GPs, local pharmacists and school vaccination teams.
She also reminded parents that there is a catch-up facility available for girls who are still in secondary school.
"Anyone who may have hesitated previously can contact our schools teams and get their daughter vaccinated," she added.
For more information on the HPV vaccine, click here. To view Laura Brennan's latest HPV campaign video, click here
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