Local senator and former Minister for Health, Dr James Reilly (FG) has come out strongly in favour of young girls and boys having the HPV vaccine to ward off certain cancers, particularly cervical cancer. The controversial vaccine was in the news last week, when it was suggested that boys should be included for it.
Speaking to the County Leader, Reilly acknowledged that there are dangers associated with everything in life and some people can have an adverse reaction to the HPV vaccine, but he emphasised that the benefits far outweighed the dangers.
He said, “The argument around the side effects of the vaccine is the same for several vaccines. They are given in good faith and taken in good faith and I firmly believe that there should be a compensation fund set up by Government for victims of vaccination damage. This is the only way that we can reassure parents that these are rare occurrences and where a child suffers, that they are going to be looked after,” he said.
“Every time you give a vaccination, you are making a decision. You are going to confer protection from some very serious illness on your child. If you decide not to give it, you make a decision to leave your child exposed to the illness. This is not about absolutes, it’s about percentages. Are you prepared to take the risk that your daughter may get cervical cancer, or your son may get other sorts of cancers involving noades on the neck etc.?”
“The alternative is to have them vaccinated to protect them against this killer disease, that kills 900 people every year in this country. Cervical cancer is a young woman’s disease, with 300 cases per year leading to 100 deaths. The HPV vaccine will reduce this number hugely. As we know, nothing is 100 per cent effective – you can’t swear that it is going to work and nothing is 100 per cent safe, so you can’t say that people won’t get side effects. The actual case is that it is so much safer to administer it than not. It is far more dangerous not to take it,” he said.
“All the evidence, all the science and all the experts here in Ireland and across the world, as well as the World Health Organisation are promoting this vaccine, as it is the safest option. That’s the reality of the situation,” he said. By not giving this vaccine, you are exposing your daughter to cervical cancer. The reason it is being suggested for boys is that there are 428 different cancers out there, all of which are attributable to HPV. As well as that, many of these cancers can be transmitted sexually.”
Dr Reilly recalled the time some years ago, when he ran a campaign to raise money, some of which he donated himself, to inoculate girls, which is now free, in order to put pressure on the Minister to bring in this HPV vaccine. “When I became Minister for Health, I immediately started making sure that all girls at secondary school got vaccinated. We started with the first years and the sixth years and worked until everyone was covered.”
Reilly concluded by saying, “I have had one case in my own practice a few years ago, where a woman had to lose her womb because of cervical cancer before she could start having a family, when she was in her early 20s. This is not theoretical – this is real. People should listen to the experts and look at the real evidence that this vaccine does work,” he said.
The Irish Medical Organisation (IMO) backed Dr Reilly and its president, Dr. Ann Hogan told the County Leader, “Boys need the HPV Vaccine too. Many doctors think we should already be vaccinating young boys as part of the national immunisation programme.”
“Research shows that many of the cancers caused by HPV infection in both men and women such as anal, genital and throat cancers can be prevented by the HPV vaccination.”
Acknowledging the fact that the number of girls availing of the vaccine has almost halved over the past two years, Dr. Hogan said, “We need a highly effective communications strategy to inform parents of the medical facts around the success and effectiveness of the vaccine. We need a schools education programme to educate our children about how to reduce the risks of contracting HPV.
“There has been a steady erosion of confidence and uptake of the vaccine based on irresponsible scare mongering and if uptake continues to decline, it will have serious consequences for all our young people,” she said.
Local Senator, Dr. James Reilly at his surgery in Lusk