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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

These Young Scientists asked parents about their attitude to the HPV vaccine

The girls asked parents with daughters to fill out a survey on the HPV vaccine – and found out some interesting results.

THE NATIONWIDE DEBATE about the HPV vaccine didn’t escape Tara Dolan or Chloe Kilkenny, two students from Magh Ene College, Co Donegal.

There has been a heated debate on the subject of the cervical cancer vaccine over the past few months, with some people sharing stories of severe side effects after receiving the vaccine.

This is despite high rates of success in the trials, and minimal formal reports of severe adverse effects outside of a small number of anecdotes.

The conflicting reports about the HPV vaccine inspired these girls to investigate for themselves, and ask about the attitudes towards the vaccine across four north-west counties near their area: Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Galway.

Of the 181 parents with female children who took part in the survey, 60.8% of people answered that their daughter had not received the vaccine yet. This is despite high rates of awareness about the vaccine (92%) and what it does (76%).

Most interestingly, when asked if parents would want their younger daughters to be vaccinated in the future, 42% said no, 21.5% said yes, and 30% said they would need more information before making that decision.

65% of parents who responded in the survey said that the HSE doesn’t provide enough information about the vaccine.

This tallies with the project’s Young Scientist’s research into the side effects. Chloe says the HSE leaflet only lists five or six serious side effects, out of a possible 25 provided by the drug manufacturer, Gardasil.

To top off the confusion, slightly more parents surveyed believed that the HSE should not be providing the vaccine to girls (45.9% against, compared to 44.8% for) – an indicator of the influence the debate around the safety of the vaccine had on parents” attitudes.

Chloe says the that the project encouraged a debate in their school and a lot of their friends ask them about more information on the vaccine, which hadn’t really been discussed before then.

“We really learnt a lot from this project,” Tara says. Chloe nods her head in agreement.

The fifth year students’ project is a reminder of how alert young people can be to the serious issues we debate day-to-day.

It’s also a great example of how much young people can discover and achieve with a healthy bit of curiosity and a lot of hard work.

Read: The science of the Cork accent: This year’s BT Young Scientist expo is already turning heads

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

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