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Your Health

HPV Vaccine for boys and girls - a mum's story

It’s hard to believe that my son Charlie is now a teenager and starting secondary school. It only seems like only yesterday that I was hugging him goodbye (much to his embarrassment) on his first day of primary school.

Not only that, but he is now taller than me (not that it’s very difficult as I’m only 5 foot 2). It’s wonderful to see how he has grown into an intelligent, friendly and sporty boy, passionate about soccer, basketball (and of course his beloved Xbox).

Starting secondary school is a huge deal for any child, and Charlie is no different. His main concerns this September are finding his classes on time, and how he will get on with so many new teachers.

As he grows and matures, as his mum, I have to continue to make decisions about his future to try and give him the best possible outcomes now and later in life. After all, we all want what’s best for our children.

Thankfully Charlie has always been a healthy boy, and I did, and continue to do my best to keep him that way. Amongst the million and one things that parents need to do for their children, I made sure he got all of his recommended vaccines. This protected him and others from infectious diseases. As Charlie is protected it means he cannot pass on these diseases to other people who may not be able to be vaccinated for medical reasons.

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Now as a first-year in secondary school Charlie will once again receive more vaccines to keep him safe. As well as getting vaccines to protect against tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough and meningitis, Charlie will be amongst the first boys in Ireland to get the HPV vaccine to protect against HPV related cancers in later life.  

By Charlie receiving the HPV vaccine he will also be protecting any partners he might have in the future, protecting others as well as himself from life-threatening diseases. Charlie and his generation are so lucky to have this available to them, I would urge all children to get vaccinated.  It’s normal to worry sometimes about the safety and effectiveness of any medication but there’s lots of good scientific information available to read up about it. For example, the HSE website www.hpv.ie has been really helpful.

Thankfully HPV vaccination is becoming the norm in Ireland for girls with more than seven out of ten receiving the vaccine. With the vaccine available from September for boys, I’m sure it will become the norm of the boys too. Charlie and I had a good chat about the HPV and other vaccines and he is well aware of how we can help protect his future.

Like every other parent in Ireland I want the best for my child. That’s why I’m grateful that Charlie has the opportunity to receive these potentially life-saving vaccines in September.

  

About HPV

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common sexually transmitted infection and almost everyone will be infected at some stage in their life. Most people will clear the infection themselves without any ill effects but some will develop genital warts and a smaller number may develop potentially life-threatening cancers. For example, at the moment around 90 women a year in Ireland die of cervical cancer. Now that the vaccine is available, most of these are preventable deaths and Ireland should be able to make cervical cancer a much rarer event. 

HPV vaccine protects against HPV related cancers in later life, including cancers of the penis, anus, head and neck. The HPV vaccine is being offered for the first time to all boys in first year of secondary school in September. It has been available to girls since 2010.