PHA encourages girls to get the HPV vaccine
The Public Health Agency (PHA) is urging parents to take up the offer of the HPV vaccine for their daughters aged 12-13.
As the new school year gets under way, the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine, which reduces the risk of cervical cancer, will again be routinely offered to girls in years 9 and 10 in schools across Northern Ireland.
Dr Lucy Jessop, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “We urge parents of girls who are eligible to receive the HPV vaccine to make sure that they get it to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer when they are older.
“Our latest figures show a reduction in the levels of uptake of the vaccine here, despite the fact that it helps protect girls from developing cervical cancer when they are adults. The vaccine is offered to girls in years 9 and 10 through a school-based programme and provides the best protection against the disease.
“With women in Northern Ireland having a 1 in 10 chance of being diagnosed with changes to the cervix, which can lead to cervical cancer at some point in their lives, we want parents to see this vaccine as a simple step that could save their daughter’s life further down the line, as it can reduce the risk of getting cervical cancer by over 70%.”
The vaccine is offered to girls in year 9, with a chance to catch up on any missed doses in year 10. The school health teams will be offering the opportunity for girls in years 9 and 10 to be vaccinated in September and again after Easter. For the vaccine to work, two injections are needed within a 12 month period. It’s important that girls have both vaccinations to get the best protection.
“Uptake of the vaccine has decreased recently, however it is relatively high in Northern Ireland compared with other jurisdictions,” added Dr Jessop.
“Cervical cancer can kill so we are fortunate to be able to offer teenage girls the HPV vaccine to help protect against it. Girls should be receiving consent forms for the vaccination over the next few weeks and I would urge all parents or guardians to talk to their daughters about the importance of getting the vaccine and ensure that all eligible girls complete the course of vaccines when offered in school.
“This is the tenth year that the vaccine has been available in the UK, and decreases in pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix and in genital warts have already been seen. It is estimated that the level of protection offered by the vaccine will last for at least 10 years and probably protection will be lifelong.”
Each year around 90 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Northern Ireland, with an average of 22 women dying from the disease.
In addition, 1,225 cases of cervical cancer in situ are diagnosed each year. This is where some cells of the cervix have pre-cancerous changes, which could lead to cancer if not treated.
This vaccine helps protect against two virus types that cause over 70% of cervical cancer. The vaccine won’t protect against the remaining cancer-causing types, so it’s vital that women still go for routine cervical screening (smear tests) to check for cancer.
The HPV vaccine is the first step girls can take to help protect themselves against cervical cancer. Once they reach the age of 25 the next step is to go for three-yearly smear tests.
For further information about the vaccine see www.pha.site/hpv2018 or contact the school nurse directly.