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

Health minister Simon Harris said that those who aren’t medical professionals shouldn’t be giving expert advice on vaccines.

HSE Ireland / YouTube

THE HSE HAS launched an information pack and website aimed at parents who have daughters who are entitled to the free HPV vaccine programme.

The information campaign is being launched almost seven years after the free vaccine scheme was first rolled out to girls of school-going age.

It’s hoped the information will persuade parents to allow their daughters to get the free vaccine after a campaign of scientifically incorrect information caused uptake levels of the vaccine to fall from its peak at 90% to 50% last year.

That misinformation, caused by reports from parents who said the vaccine causes a series of side effects or illnesses, has been disproven and condemned by those in scientific and medical fields.

At a presentation today, Professor Karina Butler presented evidence that showed instances of reported illnesses, although perhaps coincided with girls receiving the vaccine, were not caused by it.

Allergic reactions to the Gardasil vaccine are less frequent than the side effects caused by Penicillin, according to Butler. Because of the fears around the vaccine and multiple tests on the stories and side effects reported by parents, the vaccine is among the most-checked vaccine, and as a consequence, one of the safest.

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.

One of the strongest messages relayed today was by the Minister for Health Simon Harris: “I’m not a medical expert, I don’t give medical advice and I think that’s a very good rule of thumb for everybody to follow.

I get my advice from people who train very, very hard and who are well-qualified to give medical and scientific advice. If you want to be a clinician, if you want to be a pharmacist, if you want to be a scientist go study one of those disciplines. Then come back and give scientific advice.

HSE Director General Tony O’Brien said that the campaign against the HPV vaccine couldn’t be described as anything other than “a form of emotional terrorism”.

Over the next few weeks, around 40,000 leaflets will be sent out to parents offering information on the HPV vaccine. See some of what the leaflets contain on

Read: ‘Women will die needlessly’: Call for push to increase uptake of HPV vaccine

Read: As HPV-linked cancers increase, should boys get the HPV vaccine?

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