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Simon Harris says HPV vaccine saves lives, after speaking to Finian McGrath about his concerns

McGrath had called for the vaccine to be banned.

90518873 Finian McGrath Source: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

Updated 1.10pm

JUNIOR MINISTER FINIAN McGrath has said he stands over raising concerns about the HPV vaccination.

McGrath – who is a super junior minister at the Department of Health – has released a statement about the situation, after a report in today’s Sunday Times said he called for the vaccine, Gardasil, to be banned before he was appointed to Cabinet last year.

The report sparked a backlash, with some people calling on McGrath to resign.

Tweet by @Mark Tighe Source: Mark Tighe/Twitter

Responding to the criticism, McGrath said: “On the issue of the HPV vaccine, I did raise concerns about it when in opposition last year. I stand over the fact that I raised it because concerned parents asked me to raise it.

“Parents have a right to voice any concerns they have relating to vaccines or any form of medication being introduced for their children.

“Personally and as Minister of State with responsibility for Disabilities, I do accept that such vaccines are a very important part of Government health strategy.”

During the week, it emerged that the uptake rate among girls of school-going age – for whom the vaccine is free – fell from its peak of 90% to 50% last year.

On Wednesday, the HSE launched an information pack and website about the vaccine, aimed at reversing the decline in the number of girls getting it.

The HSE said the decline was due to the spread of misinformation about the vaccine. Some parents have said it caused negative side effects or illnesses among their daughters.

Health Minister Simon Harris – a vocal supporter of the HPV vaccine – today tweeted an appeal calling for parents to get their information about the vaccine from medical experts.

Labour’s Health Spokesperson Alan Kelly has asked Harris if he has confidence in McGrath.

“The position taken by Minister McGrath is irresponsible and many people have said he should now reconsider his position as a Junior Minister at the Department of Health…

“No minister, especially one at the Department of Health, should be putting dangerous views like this out in the public domain. It flies in the face of the #ProtectOurFuture campaign launched by the HSE earlier this week,” Kelly said.

In a later statement, Harris said he had spoken to McGrath about the issue.

“Minister McGrath assured Minister Harris that he supports the new campaign to encourage parents to avail of the HPV vaccine which saves lives and he welcomes the fact the whole purpose of the new campaign is to help inform parents and direct them to medical professionals to have any questions answered and facts provided.

Ministers Harris and McGrath agree that the people qualified to give advice on vaccines are medical professionals and they would encourage parents to take advice from them.

Harris added: “The HPV vaccine saves lives and my appeal to parents is simple – get the facts and information from medical experts. Talk to your doctor. Check out HPV.ie.”

Medical experts 

As outlined in this FactCheck article, a large number of clinical trials and scientific studies have proven HPV vaccines, including Gardasil, to be highly effective in preventing the virus that causes 70% of cervical cancer.

These trials and studies have also proven HPV vaccines, including Gardasil, to be very safe, with extremely low rates of serious possible side effects. What little scientific research has been done contradicting this overwhelming consensus, has consistently been shown to be flawed and unreliable.

HPV stands for Human Papillomavirus, which is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, with almost all men and women contracting it at some point in their lives.

According to the HSE, 80% of women contract HPV, usually in their late teens or 20s.
In most cases, the virus clears on its own and doesn’t have symptoms. In women, HPV can cause changes in the cervix which can lead to cervical cancer.

Every year in Ireland, 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer – of that number 90 women will die of the disease. It’s hoped that HPV could eventually be eradicated if uptake rates of the vaccine are maintained at high levels.

Speaking to Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ Radio 1 this morning, John Halligan - McGrath’s Independent Alliance colleague – said McGrath had met a number of families who had concerns about the vaccine.

He said McGrath was trying to be “compassionate” to the families, but ultimately people had to be guided by medical experts and the HSE.

With reporting by Dan MacGuill 

Read: FactCheck: No, the reported side effects of the HPV vaccine do NOT outweigh the proven benefits

Read: ‘Emotional terrorism’: After HPV vaccine uptake rates fall to 50%, the HSE is fighting back

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