Donegal sees fall in uptake of life-saving cancer vaccine


Just 71.9% of Donegal schoolgirls eligible to receive the free vaccine chose to get it  

Staff Reporter


Staff Reporter


Donegal sees fall in uptake of life-saving cancer vaccine 

Left to Right: Tanya Ward, Children’s Rights Alliance; Donal Buggy, Irish Cancer Society; Niamh Murtagh, Union of Students in Ireland; and Orla O’Connor, National Women’s Council of Ireland.

The dramatic fall in the uptake of a cancer-preventing vaccine requires urgent action for it to be addressed, the newly-formed HPV Vaccination Alliance has said.

Donegal region has seen one of the steepest drops in uptake of the HPV vaccine, which protects against the strains of Human Papilloma Virus which cause seven in ten cases of cervical cancer in women.

In the 2015/2016 school year 304 Donegal schoolgirls declined the offer of the free vaccine. This meant just 71.9% of girls eligible to receive the free vaccine in Donegal actually got it, down from 90.8% the previous year.*

Provisional figures show that uptake fell even more sharply in 2016/2017, falling to as low as 50% nationally.

In response, more than 30 organisations , including leading health, children and women’s groups, have come together to express their alarm at this dramatic and life-threatening fall in numbers.This year alone, up to 420 people in Ireland will be diagnosed with a cancer caused by HPV infection. Almost 300 of these will be cervical cancer cases. A further 6,500 women will need hospital treatment to remove precancerous growths in their cervix caused by HPV.Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39. In 2017, more than 90 Irish women will die from cervical cancer and those who survive will need intensive treatment, such as surgery, radiotherapy and/or chemotherapy, to help them overcome this invasive disease. This treatment almost always results in infertility.This new school term around 30,000 first-year secondary school girls will be offered the vaccine as part of a national vaccination programme which began in 2010. While national uptake of the vaccine reached a high of 87% in the 2014/2015 academic year, in just two years this has fallen to 50%, largely due to misinformation about the vaccine spreading on social media.=Last year’s low uptake will result in a minimum of 40 deaths. Another 100 girls will need life-changing treatment and 1,000 more will need invasive therapy.

In coming together, the HPV Vaccination Alliance is unequivocal: the HPV vaccine is safe and saves lives. To highlight this, Alliance member organisations have signed a Contract Against Cancer.