Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell highlighted the benefits of the HPV vaccine despite recent online campaign, writes Gavin Hyland.
Fine Gael TD Kate O’Connell has said there is no medical evidence that there are any issues with the HPV vaccine given to young girls to prevent cervical cancer.
 
The number of girls receiving the vaccine plummeted following an ‘aggressive social media campaign’, said Deputy O’Connell.
 
An online campaign named REGRET was set up by mothers of girls who claim to have experienced adverse side effects from the vaccine. The website states ‘the group feels that the information provided by the HSE is incomplete and biased, downplaying the safety issues while exaggerating its effectiveness’.
 
HSE figures estimate that 5,000 fewer girls received the cervical cancer vaccine this year. This drop will affect the ‘herd immunity’. Deputy O’Connell estimates that 7 in 10 women could be prevented from cervical cancer with the vaccination. The Fine Gael TD encouraged the vaccine to be used with screening and early testing to increase the success rate.
 
"People of my generation died from diseases which have now been eradicated by vaccinations. To think we could eradicate a form of cancer in this country is amazing."
 
Deputy O’Connell said that 40 girls a year will die because of the falling uptake in the vaccine. HSE figures show approximately 100 deaths a year are caused by cervical cancer.
 
"The Irish Cancer society are in the business of fighting cancer, they have no other motives and they support the vaccine", said Deputy O’Connell.
 
A statement from the website of the Irish Cancer Society reads: "The Irish Cancer Society is concerned that parents need more information to fully understand the risks of HPV-associated cancers, and need to hear from knowledgeable experts about the vaccine and its safety as they consider giving consent for their daughters to receive this injection."
 
The HPV vaccine has been shown to benefit the prevention of other forms of cancers such as head, neck and genital cancers which can be present in men. Deputy O’Connell, a pharmacist from Dublin Bay South said males have been ‘deserted’ because of the falling uptake in the HPV vaccine among females.
 
The Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has said he is aware of the ‘misinformation’ regarding the HPV vaccine and says it is ‘regrettable’.
 
Deputy O’Connell has met with the Minister for Health to discuss a new campaign aimed at schoolgirls to increase the uptake in the vaccine.