Minister unable to answer the question or else he didn’t understand it.

It is quite obvious that Minister Simon Harris was either avoiding to answer the question or simply he didn’t understand it one or the other. Is he trying to back up the reading ability of a 12 year old assertion made earlier by Dr Kevin Kelleher?

Now Minister let’s be frank on the matter. A 12 year old would know that the question was in relation to the remarks made by Tony O’ Brien Director General of the HSE. You didn’t even attempt to answer the question but have given the usual cut and paste answer from the HSE on this. It is sad that you hide in the background of any issue that you have been faced with. Minister, you need to mature to your position. We have been respectful and dignified in our campaign and have not brought ourselves to the lowest level of damaging and defaming peoples characters in the manner that Tony O’ Brien has done. You have sat back and made no comment other than to back the campaign, a campaign which is meant to be informative for parents and allow them to make their decision on the HPV vaccine. No Minister the campaign is forceful and evasive and one with no compassion for those who have concerns.

Department of Health

Vaccination Programme

413. To ask the Minister for Health his views on the recent comments of a person (details supplied) in which they referred to some of the HPV vaccine campaigns as acts of emotional terrorism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39333/17]

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women worldwide and is linked to high risk Human Papillomavirus (HPV) types. In 2009 the National Immunisation Advisory Committee recommended HPV vaccination for all 12 year old girls to reduce their risk of cervical cancer and in September 2010 the HPV vaccination programme was introduced for all girls in first year of second level schools.

Unfounded claims have been made of an association between HPV vaccination and a number of conditions experienced by a group of young women – there is no scientific evidence that the vaccine causes long term illnesses.

However, the spread of inaccurate information concerning the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in the media means, that for many the perceived risks of vaccines appear to outweigh the risks of diseases. The claims concerning the HPV vaccine has led to a significant drop in uptake rates from 87% in 2014/15 to 72% in 2015/16 and provisional figures indicate that the uptake rates in 2016/17 fell further to 50%.

This significant drop in uptake rates of the HPV vaccine will have significant consequences for some of the girls who do not receive the vaccine. The Irish Cancer Society estimates that the recent drop in the rate of uptake to 50% will have the following consequences:

– 1000 girls will require invasive therapy to prevent the pre-cancerous form of HPV;

– A further 100 girls will develop cervical cancer and will require life altering treatment; and

– The death of at least 40 girls with cervical cancer who did not receive the HPV vaccine.

It is important that parents receive accurate and credible information to enable them to take a fully informed decision concerning HPV vaccination.

The HSE recently launched their information campaign for HPV vaccination as part of the 2017/18 Schools Immunisation Programme. This launch is part of an extensive media campaign coinciding with the start of the programme in September 2017. The focus remains on providing accurate information in relation to the safety of the HPV vaccine, and to increase the uptake rate in girls as part of the schools immunisation programme. It includes a comprehensive range of materials for parents, schools and medical practitioners.

I fully support the information campaign and its aim to increase uptake of this important vaccine.