Talking about cancer
posted by Cancer Nurse
24 September 2021

HPV School Vaccine Programme 2021/2022

HPV (human papilloma virus) is a very common virus that most people will have at some point in their lives.  There is over 100 strains of this virus and some strains increase your cancer risk.  1 in 20 cancers diagnosed worldwide are caused by HPV.  Further information about the virus can be found on our website.

The HPV schools vaccine programme will shortly commence for 2021/2022 and will be offered free to both boys and girls in their first year of secondary school.  The HPV vaccine (Gardasil 9) protects against the HPV virus, which can cause cancer and genital warts in both women and men and protects against the types of HPV that cause 9 out of 10 cervical cancers.

On the support line, we often get questions from the public about the vaccine and the programme, some frequently asked questions are:

Is the Vaccine safe?

The HPV vaccine is safe. The safety of the HPV vaccine has been studied for over 15 years. Over 1 million people have been studied during clinical trials since the vaccine was licensed in 2006.   Information about vaccine safety can be found here

There is no scientific evidence in Ireland or in any other country that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term medical condition.

There are stories on social media claiming that the HPV vaccine causes an increase in cases of:

  • postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) – an increase in heart rate that can make you feel faint and dizzy
  • complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) researched these claims in 2015. They found no evidence that the HPV vaccine leads to an increase in these conditions, further information can be found here.

Vaccines are strictly monitored and reviewed regularly by international bodies including the:

Are there any side effects from the vaccine?

  • Most people have no problems after the vaccine. The HPV vaccine has many of the same, mild side effects as other vaccines. 
  • Soreness, swelling and redness in their arm where the injection was given. This is nothing to worry about as this usually passes after a day or two.
  • Headache, or feel sick in their tummy or have a slight temperature. If this happens, paracetamol or ibuprofen will help.
  • Occasionally, some people may feel unwell and faint after getting their injection. To prevent this, when someone gets the vaccine they are asked to sit down and rest for 15 minutes after the vaccination.
  • All international bodies have continually reported that the vaccines used in Ireland have no long-term side effects.

Can Gardasil 9 be given alongside the COVID-19 vaccine?

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee says that other vaccines can be given with COVID-19 vaccines.  A gap is not needed between COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccines offered as part of the school vaccination programme.

My child/I decided not to proceed with the HPV schools programme in their first year of secondary school can they/I opt in now?

Anyone not in 1st year of secondary school or age equivalent in special schools or home schooled during 2021/2022 school year who wish to get the HPV vaccine, must go to their GP or sexual health clinic and pay for the vaccine and its administration privately.  The vaccine costs approximately 200 euro per dose, if you have private health insurance we recommend to check if it is covered on your policy.

Any student in first year of second level school in the 2020/2021 school year who had opted into the programme, but missed their second dose due to school closures will be offered an appointment to compete the course.

If you miss a dose due to absence, contact your local school vaccination team to arrange an appointment.

Some useful websites that are a good resource for information are listed below.  Please contact our support line on 1800 200 700 or by emailing supportline@irishcancer.ie if you would like any information or advice from a cancer nurse.

https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/schoolprog/hpv/hpv-human-papillomavirus/

https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/schoolprog/hpv/hpv-vaccination-programme/

https://www.hse.ie/eng/health/immunisation/pubinfo/schoolprog/hpv/about/

http://www.hpra.ie/docs/default-source/vaccine-pils/gardasil-9-01-2020.pdf?sfvrsn=2

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