HSE school vaccination teams are now returning to secondary schools to offer the second dose of the HPV vaccine to first year students.
The first dose of the vaccine was provided to current first years last September. This also marked the first time that boys received the vaccine. The second dose will now be offered in the coming weeks at schools nationwide.
The HPV vaccine protects against the types of HPV (human papillomavirus) that cause nine out of 10 cervical cancers. It also protects against most cases of anal, vulval and vaginal cancers, and most cases of genital warts.
"We are very encouraged by the uptake for the first dose of the HPV vaccine for first year students since September 2019. This is the first year boys have also been offered the HPV vaccine and school teams are reporting very busy clinics across the country," commented Dr Lucy Jessop, director of the HSE National Immunisation Office.
She said that based on activity at school clinics nationwide, HSE immunisation teams are confident that this year, Ireland will regain the World Health Organization (WHO) target of 80% uptake for the vaccine nationally.
"We can report that the uptake for the HPV vaccine in Laura Brennan's home county of Clare is 90% - a wonderful testament to her selfless advocacy, and the continuing work of the Brennan family to promote the importance of the HPV vaccine in Ireland," Dr Jessop said.
Laura Brennan was diagnosed with terminal cervical cancer at the age of just 25. She worked tirelessly with the HSE to raise awareness of the importance of getting vaccinated, before her death in March 2019 at the age of just 26.
Speaking about the latest figures from the HSE, Laura's brother, Kevin Brennan, said that his family "are thrilled that the uptake of the HPV vaccine is set to reach target".
"Thank you to everyone who has helped us support the HPV vaccine over the last 12 months. We're especially pleased that the parents of county Clare have heard Laura's message loud and clear and that more than 90% of first years will now be protected from the virus that caused her cancer," he said.
A HSE information campaign on the HPV vaccine is set to begin this week on radio, digital and social media. It features Eoin Roche (42) from Kildare, who is now in remission from a HPV-related cancer. He hopes his story will encourage parents to ensure that their children get vaccinated.
"Last year, I was diagnosed with HPV cancer in my neck. During treatment I decided I wanted to help in any way I could in the promotion of the HPV vaccine. I contacted Laura's brother, Kevin Brennan. Laura's story inspired me, as did the work of her family in the promotion of the HPV vaccine.
"I was delighted to hear that in September last year, first year boys joined the HPV vaccination programme and I'm also delighted to hear that the uptake of the vaccine is rising. I would encourage parents to vaccinate their children to prevent HPV-related cancers," he said.
The HPV vaccine is endorsed by the Irish College of General Practitioners (ICGP), the Irish Pharmacy Union and the Irish Cancer Society's HPV Alliance, and by major medical and scientific bodies worldwide including the WHO, the Centres for Disease Control in the US, the EU funded European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Meanwhile, the MenACWY vaccine is also being introduced for all students in their first year of secondary school. It replaces the MenC booster that has normally been given to students at this time.
MenACWY covers more meningococcal strains than the previous vaccine (A, C, W and Y), which can cause meningitis and septicaemia.
"Over the last couple of years, there has been an increase in meningococcal disease in this age group. We are delighted to now be offering the MenACWY vaccine to all first year students in secondary school through the HSE school vaccination programme," Dr Jessop commented.
For more information on the HPV vaccine, click here. For more information on the MenACWY vaccine, click here.
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