Press Release

Cervical Cancer Vaccine ‘catch-up’ programme “will save lives” – Reilly

Health Minister Dr James Reilly today ( Thursday 26th May, 2011) announced an extension of the cervical cancer vaccination programme to begin in September of this year. From September on, a ‘catch-up’ programme will be launched in the nation’s schools so that all girls in 6th year will be able to avail of the vaccine as well as the girls in 1st year. The HSE is making the necessary arrangements to ensure that all girls in the relevant years who wish to receive the vaccine can do so free of charge.

The issue of the wider distribution of the vaccine is a key priority for Minister James Reilly. “The wonder of a vaccine that can prevent cancer” said Doctor Reilly “cannot be underestimated and the great opportunity and protection it confers should not be missed”.

Minister Reilly is satisfied that the planned extension of the scheme “will save many lives over the coming years protecting our people from the scourge of cancer”. The Minister also appealed to mothers, “who are concerned about any aspects of the vaccine to discuss it with their primary care professionals; the pharmacist, the public health nurse, their GP”. While the target uptake of 80% has been reached in the relevant groups in certain parts of the country, the Minister hoped that greater numbers would take advantage of the health protection provided by the vaccine.

The Minister thanked the HSE for its work in making this important catch-up scheme become a reality.

Dr. Brenda Corcoran, Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, said today that ‘cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in Ireland among females aged 15 to 44. HPV or Human Papillomavirus, is proven to cause cervical cancer. It is a common virus – about 80% of people will have a HPV infection during their lifetime.’

‘HPV vaccine is safe and fully tested. The vaccine protects against the main cancer-causing strains of the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) and will eventually save around 60 lives in Ireland every year. Around 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer here annually, with around 80 deaths. HPV vaccine will prevent at least 70% of these cases.’

‘All parents of girls who are getting the vaccine in September will receive a detailed information booklet and consent form from the HSE. These will be sent from their daughter’s school before the vaccinations begin‘

‘In the meantime, we encourage all parents and students to visit our website, where they can read all about HPV and the vaccine, and see many links to international scientific information and evidence about the value and safety of this vaccine.

Preliminary figures show very high uptakes for the three doses of vaccine given to 1st and 2nd years this year. Many parts of the country have achieved the target uptake of over 80%.. This is a great credit to the work of the HSE vaccination teams.’

Dr. Corcoran emphasised that ‘Cervical cancer is proven to be caused by HPV. Giving your daughter the HPV vaccine is safe, is very worthwhile, and will protect her now, for her future.’