We’ve been hearing loads of debate about the HPV vaccine lately, and wanted to find out once and for what the scéal is. So we asked our go to GP, Dr Sharon O’Donnell, is it a good or a bad thing????

Good, Good, Good!!!!

There has been a lot in the news recently about the HPV vaccine. The fact of the matter is that it will undoubtedly save lives and protects girls from developing cervical cancer when they grow up.

In Ireland about 300 women per year are diagnosed with Cervical cancer and about  90 of them will die.  It is a cancer that affects young and middle aged women and is the second most common female cancer in Europe.

In Ireland we have Free National Screening programme called Cervical Check which recommends Cervical smear tests from the age of 25 to 60 and this detects abnormalities of the cervix which may lead on to cancer.  [Cervicalcheck.ie to register for a smear test].  Abnormalities before age 25 are rare but may occur.  A smear test is a simple brushing of some cells from the cervix [or neck of the uterus]. It is done by your doctor or nurse.  If we pick abnormalities up early and treat them the woman will hopefully never get the cancer. This programme is reducing the amount of cervical cancer and it is vital that women keep up with their free smear tests.

One of the biggest risk factors  for developing cervical cancer is the Human papilloma virus or HPV . HPV is usually contracted during sexual activity and 80% of people who have ever been sexually active have been exposed to it.   It is the commonest sexually transmitted  infection worldwide. The virus can spread through skin to skin contact, vaginal, anal or oral sex.  There are different strains of HPV and in most of us our immune system successfully fights off the virus but in some cases the more high risk strains of the virus remain and can cause genital warts and more seriously Cervical cancer, anal cancer, mouth and tongue cancer.  Smoking can prevent the infection from clearing and therefore increases the risk of cervical cancer.

The virus can be in your system for up to 8 months before any symptoms occur and indeed you may have no symptoms. A person carries the virus always once  they are diagnosed.

Research has shown that HPV vaccines can prevent 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer related to HPV  type 16 and 18 which are found in 70% of cancers. The Vaccination programme for HPV started in Ireland in schools in 2010. It has the potential to reduce the risk of cervical cancer in Ireland by 90%!!!

Since then there has been some controversy and some Anti- vaccine campaigners.

There will always be some side effects to any medicine- Even Paracetamol can kill people.  However  of over 270 million doses of the HPV vaccine given around the world there have been no serious side effects actually attributed scientifically to the vaccine.

Simple redness or soreness around the injection site are common along with mild dizziness or headache but these are transient.

The World Health organisation’s Global advisory committee and Health products Regulatory authority analysed date from 270 million doses given and concluded that with the exception of fainting , which is a common anxiety or stress-related reaction, and a risk of anaphylaxis [severe allergy] at 1.7 per million doses [to put in perspective the risk of anaphylaxis with penicillin in 1 in 5000], no other serious adverse reaction was identified.

To put it simply- IT’S A VERY SAFE VACCINE and will definitely benefit the health of women long term.

Well thanks for clearing that up! Now you know people!

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