WHO Head of Immunisation addresses HSE HPV Vaccination Conference

Addressing the HSE National HPV Conference today, Friday May 19th, Mr Robb Butler, Head of Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunisation at WHO/Europe, will acknowledge that provisional HSE data shows a stabilisation in the drop in HPV vaccine uptake rates in Ireland.  However, Mr Butler will express concern at the steep decline in the rates noting that “it is particularly alarming given Ireland boasted the world’s most successful HPV vaccination programmes globally, just a few years ago.”
“We in the WHO stand with the many health bodies and agencies in Ireland in their ongoing efforts to see this worrisome trend reversed and the campaign of misinformation ceased.  The victims of the decisions made today will be those whose families are affected by cervical cancer that could have been prevented. We applaud the substantial work done to date by the HSE and Dept of Health who are investing time and effort to encourage and help parents understand the real facts and make an informed choice.”
“Ireland was recently commended by the Regional Verification Commission for Measles and Rubella Elimination for interrupting transmission of measles and entirely eliminating rubella.  This was achieved largely through the efforts and commitment of the health authorities and the public’s understanding that vaccines offer the most effective way to consign disease to history.”
Addressing the conference, Dr Brenda Corcoran Head of the HSE National Immunisation Office, will confirm that initial data from March/April shows that the drop in uptake has stabilised: “Although this information is provisional, and we remain very concerned at the current rates,  it does tell us that more parents would seem to be hearing the message that this vaccine is safe and effective – it offers their daughters a life without cervical cancer. We do understand the concerns of parents and encourage them to talk directly to us and our fellow healthcare professionals across the country.”
Dr Angela O’Leary, Principal Medical Officer,  will tell the conference of the experience of the school vaccination teams in Cork and Kerry, sharing the frontline reality of addressing much of the misinformation that is facing parents and teenage girls. Significantly, however, Dr O’Leary is reporting an increase in uptake rates following the second offer of the vaccine in the region: “Preliminary figures show that the HPV uptake increased by  up to five per cent in Cork and Kerry which is good news. We need to build on this success so more girls are protected with this life saving vaccine.”.
Globally, it has been estimated by the WHO that based on 80% of the world’s 12 year old female population receiving the vaccine, 420,000 deaths from cervical cancer could be prevented.
Also in attendance today is Dr Kevin Pollock, Senior Epidemiologist from Health Protection Scotland, who will share their most recent research which showed  a 90% decrease in HPV infections in Scotland because they have consistently achieved HPV vaccine uptake of over 85% since the vaccine was introduced in 2008.
"The two HPV types we were vaccinating against - HPV 16 and HPV 18 - cause about 70% to 80% of cervical cancers within Scotland but the vaccine has exceeded our expectations because it appears to have knocked out another three high-risk HPV types which cause about 10% of cervical cancers.
"So we do forecast within the next few years a 90% reduction in cervical cancer within Scotland."
Researchers compared the cervical screening and vaccination records of women born in 1995, who had been vaccinated as teenagers, with those from unvaccinated women born between 1989 and 1990. They found just 0.5% of women from the 1995 group tested positive for the virus, compared with 21.4% of women born before 1990.  The study also showed evidence that the vaccine protected against three other high-risk HPV genotypes involved in the development of cervical cancer.
Over 200,000 girls in Ireland have safely received the HPV vaccine, along with 100 million people worldwide in countries like the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Last updated on: 19 / 05 / 2017