Boys to be offered HPV vaccine as vaccination programme launches in secondary schools
The family of the late Laura Brennan attended the launch of the programme on Tuesday.
For the first time, male first-year students in Irish secondary schools will be able to avail of the HPV vaccine following the launch of the 2019/20 schools HPV vaccine programme by the HSE on Tuesday.
As a result, the HPV vaccine is now available to all first-year students in secondary schools, having been available to just female students up until now.
HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer and other cancers in both women and men and the HPV vaccine will protect young people from HPV-related cancers when they grow up. The uptake of the HPV vaccine has a participation rate of approximately 70%, an increase of 20% points since 2017.
The late Laura Brennan, who passed away earlier this year, played a huge role in increasing awareness of the vaccine before her death and her family were in attendance at the launch on Tuesday.
Speaking at the event, her brother, Kevin Brennan, said: “Laura poured herself into this campaign, knowing every time she told her story, it had the potential to save a life.
“The increase in the uptake rates of the HPV vaccine in last year’s first-year girls is bittersweet for us – we’re delighted that Laura has played a part in helping to protect so many more young people from HPV cancers. And the introduction of the boys to the vaccination programme is very welcome news too. But we’re all very aware of Laura’s absence today and how much she would have loved to share this occasion.
“As Laura would say, Get the Facts, Get the Vaccine. Protect Our Future.”
The HSE says there is potential to save 112 lives each year by preventing the most common strains of HPV that cause cervical cancer and other cancers. The HPV vaccine now protects against nine out of 10 HPV cancers. The HPV virus can cause cancers and conditions that can affect boys too, making it extremely important for all young people to get the vaccine.
This year, Ireland will join over 20 other countries, including the UK, in giving the HPV vaccine to boys and girls in first year of secondary school.
Clip via HSE Ireland
The vaccine is endorsed by major medical and scientific bodies worldwide, including the World Health Organisation, the Centres for Disease Control in the USA, the EU-funded European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, and the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
Speaking at the launch on Tuesday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said: “I am delighted to launch this year's HPV vaccine programme, including boys for the first time. Today is an important milestone on the path to our ultimate goal – the effective eradication of cervical cancer.
“In all that we do to advance that goal, we continue to be inspired by one incredible woman who is sadly no longer with us. Associated by many with the simple phrase ‘Thank you, Laura’, it is always with great gratitude that we remember Laura Brennan.”
Information on the HPV vaccination programme can be found on www.immunisation.ie and www.hpv.ie, while over 60,000 information packs will be delivered across the country this week in advance of the HSE Vaccination Teams starting their scheduled post-primary school visits in September to administer the first of two doses of the vaccine.
A new promotional campaign, meanwhile, will see informative videos circulated online and on social media in order to support parents’ decision to get their children vaccinated.
The videos feature real families who have either received the vaccine or who will be getting vaccinated in the coming year, including the Daly family from Cork, the Houston Family from Donegal, Amanda Kenny and her son, Charlie, from Dublin and Stuart Teehan and his son, Fionn, from Wicklow.
Earlier this year, JOE caught up with Kevin Brennan, brother of Laura, to chat about a campaign encouraging sports clubs in Ireland to wear a HPV vaccine logo on their jerseys or training gear in support of the vaccination programme.
More on that here.
Featured image via Eamon Ward Photography