Irish Cancer Society
Date: 
September 4, 2017

Irish Cancer Society Statement: Minister McGrath’s remarks on HPV Vaccination Programme

The Irish Cancer Society wishes to record its deep concern at Minister of State Finian McGrath’s comments in the Sunday Times regarding the HPV Vaccination Programme, and his subsequent statements on the matter, and we call on the Minister to publicly clarify his full and unequivocal support for the national HPV Vaccination programme.

While the Society welcomes Minister Simon Harris’ intervention in the matter, a unified approach from all Ministers is required to ensure the uptake rate of the life-saving HPV vaccine is increased and to ensure misinformation about the vaccine is dispelled.

This is why Minister McGrath needs to take responsibility, as a Minister in the Department of Health, and publicly make clear his full and unwavering support for the national HPV Vaccination Programme.

HPV vaccination campaigns with strong Government support in the UK and Australia are already showing significant health improvements and projections which indicate that cervical cancer will be all but eliminated in these countries in less than 100 years.

It is dangerous and irresponsible for a Government Minister to refuse to ‘row back’ on previous comments which not only cast doubt on the HPV vaccination programme, but called for the removal of the Gardasil vaccine. Minister McGrath’s clarifying statements yesterday afternoon did not go far enough in clarifying whether he supports a vaccine and vaccination programme that has been scientifically proven, time and again, to be not only safe, but effective. The HPV vaccination programme has been a long-standing cornerstone of vaccination policy in Ireland since its roll-out in 2010.

We are hopeful that Minister McGrath will once and for all, publicly declare, unequivocally, his support for the vaccination programme.

The Irish Cancer Society supports evidence-based public policy which relies on best international practice and scientific evidence. The HPV vaccination is safe and has been proven to save lives.

Research by multiple independent, international experts analysing the 80 million vaccinations administered to date has found no difference in the rates of serious illnesses between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals.

We have long campaigned to improve uptake of the HPV vaccine among girls, which has seen a worrying drop in the past two years. Last year’s low uptake rate of 50% will result in a minimum of 40 deaths. Another 100 girls will need life-changing treatment and 1,000 more will need invasive therapy.

We ask all public representatives to inform themselves about the facts on the HPV vaccine by getting their information from trusted and credible sources, including medical professionals, the HSE and National Immunisation Office.

Learn more about the HPV Vaccination Programme at www.hpv.ie and how health organisations across Ireland have united in response to the damaging misinformation campaign about the vaccination at http://hpvalliance.ie.