The dramatic fall in the uptake of a cancer-preventing vaccine requires urgent action for it to be addressed, the newly-formed HPV Vaccination Alliance has said.
The Longford-Westmeath region has seen one of the steepest drops in uptake of the HPV vaccine, which protects against the strains of Human Papilloma Virus, the cause of seven in 10 cases of cervical cancer in women.
In the 2015/2016 school year, some 336 Longford-Westmeath schoolgirls declined the offer of the free vaccine. This meant just 69.4 per cent of girls eligible to receive the vaccine in Longford and Westmeath actually got it, down from 87.3 per cent the previous year.
Provisional figures show that uptake fell to as low as 50 per cent nationally in 2016/2017. In response, more than 30 organisations, including leading health, children and women’s groups, have come together to express their alarm at this fall in numbers.
The HPV Vaccination Alliance is unequivocal: the HPV vaccine is safe and saves lives. To highlight this, alliance member organisations have signed a ‘Contract Against Cancer’.
Through this contract, the alliance endorses the HPV vaccine as a proven and safe way to protect from cancers which can destroy and end lives; realises its obligation to do all it can to protect health and wellbeing by ensuring the facts prevail when it comes to the HPV vaccine; and pledges to raise awareness of the HPV vaccine and its benefits in stopping cancer and saving lives.
Donal Buggy, head of services and advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said: “When it comes to the HPV vaccine, the jury is in – the vaccine is safe and saves lives. The Irish Cancer Society has been vocal on this issue for quite some time.
“It’s only natural that parents are fearful when they hear claims about a vaccine. It’s terrible that young girls get sick, but to link their illness to a life-saving vaccine when all the research shows no link is dangerous and threatens lives.
“Large studies looking at three to four million women, vaccinated and unvaccinated, found no evidence whatsoever that HPV vaccination causes any immune or nervous system disorder. The World Health Organisation and the European Medicines Agency have concluded that the injection is safe and has no link to any serious illnesses.”
For more information visit www.hpvalliance.ie