The HPV vaccine programme is in place to help prevent women from developing cervical cancer, and men and women from developing cancers of the head and neck. We are all aware of the intensive media coverage surrounding this programme.
This coverage has led to a reduction in the uptake of the vaccine which is an extremely worrying trend, as it may mean that cervical cancer rates increase in the future. This will lead to the premature deaths of young women which is always a tragedy.
It is understandable that many parents have questions in relation to the vaccine, given the aforementioned publicity surrounding it. We of course respect that parents want to know that any medical intervention intended for their children, whether it is applying a band-aid or consenting to a surgical procedure will not place their child at undue risk or harm.
The HPV vaccine programme has been shown time and time again to be safe and the World Health Organisation have carried out multiple reviews into it’s safety to ensure that this is the case.
GPs do not administer this vaccine as it has been intended to be given in schools. It is entirely free of charge to those who receive it. There is no incentive, financial or otherwise for our promotion of this vaccine. We are not being paid by pharmaceutical companies or anyone else to promote it. Given our important role in health promotion, those who are on the fence about allowing their child to receive the vaccine might listen to advice from their GP. We want to endorse this vaccine as it will benefit all of our patients.
In 2010, the vaccine was introduced thanks to intense lobbying from concerned health bodies. Initially the government did not feel that they had the funding for it but then performed a rare and welcome u-turn on it.
To read more about this vaccine, it is worth checking out the HSE website on it where there is a mine of essential information for those concerned parents. Some of the stories from those who have suffered from cervical cancer do not make comfortable reading.
Many have written about the HPV vaccine, including Dr. David Robert Grimes (@drg1985) in the Irish Times and Dr. Ciara Kelly (@ciarakellydoc) in the Irish Independent. We would encourage anyone with concerns to read these articles. It is also worth checking out this excellent piece that appeared on the journal.ie website too.
GPs are not scientists, however our university and postgraduate training teaches us and our hospital colleagues on how to appraise medical journals and their publications for veracity, quality, usefulness and relevance to every day practice. This skill set obtained allows us to do more than google something and come up with an opinion on it, it allows us to separate the good and bad quality evidence and come up with a considered and educated viewpoint that has foundation in science and not fear.
We would never endorse something to our patients or their parents if we thought that there was a significant risk arising from it.
Thanks for reading and if you have any concerns about the HPV vaccine that you think we can help to allay, please get in touch on 01-8461335 or 01-8038881 for an appointment to see one of the team.
This piece was posted by Dr Niall.