Upswing in HPV vaccination in Ireland
Health authorities from Ireland’s Health Service Executive (HSE) have announced a provisional 15% increase in uptake for human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination in just over a year to the current 65%. This means that two thirds of eligible girls this year in Ireland received their first of 2 recommended doses to be fully protected from several HPV strains that can lead to cervical cancer, among other serious diseases. Reporting of final numbers for 2018 is pending.
Following a decrease in coverage in 2015–2016, the HSE launched a comprehensive response in collaboration with many partners and stakeholders, including the Irish Cancer Society.
The HSE formed a HPV Vaccination Alliance and organized a vaccine conference for school vaccination teams. Through social media and other channels, parents were offered and encouraged to seek the facts about the virus, the diseases it causes and the vaccines available to prevent them. With support from a range of organizations, policy-makers and individual advocates, the response has had an immediate positive outcome.
WHO is working closely with Ireland and other countries facing similar challenges caused by the spread of misinformation and unfounded rumours about vaccines. Denmark also implemented a broad and effective campaign addressing parents’ concerns about HPV vaccination. The campaign has helped turn around a decrease in uptake that started in 2013. Most recent information from health authorities in Denmark indicate that among the cohort of girls born in 2003, uptake of the first dose of HPV vaccine has increased from 27% in April 2016 to 76% currently.
WHO commends the inclusive approach taken in both countries.
Since October 2016, WHO has facilitated the sharing of country experiences and lessons learned through an informal group of HPV immunization programme representatives that has met regularly.
HPV is a common sexually transmitted virus. Most women and men will be infected at some point in their lives, and the peak time for acquiring infection is shortly after becoming sexually active. Virtually all cervical cancer cases (99%) are linked to genital infection with HPV. HPV is also linked to head and neck cancers, and genital warts in both men and women.
Vaccines against HPV are safe, effective and routinely provided in many countries throughout the world. The best time to be vaccinated is from 9 to 14 years of age, as the vaccine gives the strongest immune response at that age and is most effective if given before a person becomes sexually active.