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'It could have saved my life': HSE launches information campaign on the HPV vaccine

The vaccine’s uptake rates have risen to 67% since the first phase of the campaign was launched in August last year.

HPV Source: HSE/YouTube

The vaccine saves lives, it could have saved mine.

THE GOVERNMENT HAS launch the second phase of its HPV vaccine information campaign today to inform and encourage schoolgirls and their parents to avail of the free HPV vaccine scheme.

Since the launch of the first phase of that campaign - which aimed to inform parents and girls about how the vaccine works, what it does, and the associated risks – the uptake rate of the vaccine has increased from 51% in 2016 and 2017, to 62%.

The campaign, which will be shared across radio, digitally and on social media, will be launched from the 22 March.

At a press launch today, Minister for Health Simon Harris said that it was important “that we don’t pat ourselves on the back and say we’ve made progress – we need to acknowledge that progress and keep going”.

The HSE’s campaign video will feature 25-year-old Laura from Co Clare, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer when she was 24. Although she went through treatment for her condition, and was predicted to have a good chance of recovering, the cancer spread to her lymph nodes.

This meant that there was no treatment for her condition, other than palliative chemotherapy that would prolong Laura’s life.

Speaking at the press launch today, Laura said that she didn’t get involved in the campaign for sympathy.

My dad used to say, no parent should outlive their child.
There is a vaccine there that saves lives – please think about it.

Source: HSE Ireland/YouTube

If received before a person is sexually active, the vaccine can prevent the development of HPV which can cause a number of cancers. It’s been recommended that the free vaccine programme also be rolled out to boys in Ireland once the update rate for girls is high enough.

Professor Grainne Flannelly, who’s a gynaecologist with the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, said that cervical cancer is a disease that affects “young women and young mothers”, and that there was a significant problem with HPV in Ireland.

“We have a very real possibility now of eliminating cervical cancer in future generations of Irish women.”

Because of the spread of rumours and anecdotes about the vaccine on social media, the vaccine uptake rate plummeted dramatically, leading to the HSE to launch a campaign to inform students and parents about the benefits of the vaccine.

Due to similar fears about the vaccine in other countries, multiple tests on the stories and side effects reported by parents have been carried out making it one of the most-checked vaccines, and as a consequence, one of the safest in the world.

Dr Ciara Kelly, who’s a GP and a broadcaster with Newstalk, said that since her involvement in becoming an advocate of the HPV vaccine, she’s had four complaints made about her to the Medical Council, which are all about her promotion of the HPV vaccine.

She said that the HPV vaccine has come “under attack” and that “scaremongering” has led to girls and parents being “afraid of the wrong thing”.

Dr Brenda Corcoran is head of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, and told Morning Ireland that “a huge amount of work” had been done with parents to find out what information they were looking for and how they wanted to receive it.

The HPV vaccine programme had been criticised before for encouraging parents to get their daughters vaccinated without properly informing them of the associated risks.

We’ve done a lot of work also with schools, teachers, teachers’ unions, management bodies, and with parents and parents’ councils.

Dr Corcoran added that the aim would be to get an uptake rate back up to its previous peak in 2014 of 87%.

We know that in countries such as Australia and Scotland where they have very high uptakes, they’ve already seen a huge impact, they’ve already seen an up to 75% reduction in these pre-cancers that you must have to develop cancer. So we need to get the uptake higher.

HPV, which can be contracted by physical contact, particularly sexual contact, can lead to a number of cancers, including cervical, penile, throat and anal cancers in men and women.

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 are maintained at high levels, which could have a significant impact on the number of women who are diagnosed with cervical cancer.

You can find out more information at HPV.ie.

Read: HSE says people claiming to be nurses are warning against HPV vaccine on social media

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

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