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Unions claim rollout of HPV vaccine for boys is in doubt over staffing levels within the HSE

Health Minister Simon Harris said the programme would go ahead in September as planned.

File photo of Simon Harris
File photo of Simon Harris
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

CONCERNS OVER STAFFING levels could delay the rollout of the HPV vaccine for boys, according to a number of unions. 

The government and the HSE is planning to extend the HPV vaccine – currently only administered to girls – to boys following a report from HIQA last year. 

The virus has been linked to a number of cancers including cervical, anal and penile cancers, and the vaccine is seen as a preventative measure to stop these developing. 

Some 75% of HPV-linked cancers develop in women and 25% occur in men. 

However, a dispute with the HSE over whether there are enough nurses available to administer the vaccine has thrown the rollout of the programme into doubt. 

The issue was raised during talks this week at the Work Place Relations Commission this week and three unions – the Irish Medical organisation (IMO), the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisations (INMO), and Forsa - issued a joint-statement this afternoon. 

It said: “The IMO, INMO and Fórsa are fully committed to the rollout of the HPV vaccine to boys. In fact, we were at the forefront of seeking the extension of the vaccination to boys, as individual unions, and also as part of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions.

There is an issue in respect of adequate staff numbers to provide the extension of the vaccine without increasing the workforce.

“There is currently a recruitment pause, as well as an acute staffing shortage, while in the meantime this rollout represents additional workload.”

A ‘recruitment freeze’ within the HSE was introduced in April despite dozens of posts remaining unfilled. 

In a response to criticism, the HSE said the freeze only applied to hospital groups which did not produce a budget plan for the year. 

Today, Minister Simon Harris said there will be no delay in making the HPV vaccine available to boys from September. 

https://twitter.com/SimonHarrisTD/status/1142107863747354624

“There will be no delay in the rollout of the HPV vaccine for boys. It is a vital and life saving measure and rollout will proceed as planned in September,” he said in a tweet this afternoon. 

“[The HSE] has confirmed this to me today. Resources will be in place & have been provided by government.”

INMO general secretary, Phil Ní Sheaghdha said making the HPV vaccine available to boys could only happen if staffing levels were increased. 

Meanwhile, chair of the IMO’s public health and community health committee, Dr Ann Hogan said she was concerned for the number of unfilled vacancies around the country. 

”The IMO is concerned that the resources allocated for the HPV for boys will not be sufficient for the successful roll out of this initiative,” Hogan said. 

“I am concerned at the many unfilled posts and vacancies in community health departments throughout the country.”

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