Thursday, July 22, 2010

Irish Independent: Uptake of 80pc for teen girls' cancer jab

By Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent
Wednesday July 21 2010

EIGHT in 10 of the teenage girls offered the cervical cancer vaccine in schools last term availed of the jab, new figures revealed yesterday.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed that 1,300 first-year girls received the first dose of the vaccine in May, as part of the limited rollout before it is extended in the autumn.

It protects against the types of HPV infection that cause seven out of 10 of all cervical cancers, and was offered to first-year girls in 21 secondary schools last term.

Parents were sent out information packs and consent forms in advance of the vaccination beginning.

Some parents have expressed reservations about vaccinating their daughters against a sexually transmitted disease at such a young age.

The rest of 30,000 first years, who will be going into second year this September, will be offered the vaccine next term as part of a catch-up programme.

Girls who enter secondary school in September will also be vaccinated.

The girls who received the vaccine last term will have to go to a health clinic this month for the second of three doses, which are part of the vaccination programme. A spokesman for the HSE said appointments had been given for the second dose and the vaccinations would take place in clinics before the end of this month.

A spokesman for the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) said it had received 11 reports of suspected adverse reactions associated with cervical cancer vaccines. One of these was linked to Cervarix, and 10 with Gardasil.

The majority of those reports received to date relate to expected adverse reactions for the product, and include cases of hypersensitivity, enlargement of the lymph nodes, fainting and an allergy-related skin rash.

The studies so far show that protection lasts for at least five years after a full course.

There are 250 new cases of cervical cancer diagnosed every year, and 80 die of the disease.

The full impact of the vaccine will take many years to be seen.

The rollout of the vaccine was controversially delayed due to funding problems, but a deal was reached with drug companies earlier this year, which saw the cost cut from €16m to €3m.


Meanwhile, a new study published in the 'British Medical Journal' today shows the vaccine is helpful in preventing warts and low-grade lesions related to HPV.

The vaccine for some types of HPV has the potential to prevent about 70pc of cervical cancers and 90pc of genital warts, but what contribution the vaccines make to low-grade growths was still uncertain. So an international group of investigators set out to find how useful the vaccines were in preventing low-grade disease.

They studied results from 17,622 women aged 16 to 26 enrolled into two studies between December 2001 and May 2003.

Results showed that amongst previously unexposed women who had received the vaccine, it was highly effective for preventing low-grade lesions attributable to those types of HPV for up to four years.

- Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent