You’ve probably heard the advertisements for the HPV vaccine on the radio in recent weeks. We asked our favourite Doc, Dr Sharon O’Donnell to explain it for us…


While there has been a lot of discussion 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.

HPV Vaccine

In Ireland, we have a 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 to cancer.  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]. Your doctor or nurse does it.  If abnormalities are picked up early and treated, the woman will hopefully never get cervical 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 been sexually active have been exposed to it. It is the most common 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. Still, in some cases, the more high-risk strains of the virus remain and can cause genital warts and more seriously cervical cancer, anal cancer, and 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 forever once they are diagnosed.

Get The Shot Vaccine GIF by Nate Bear

Research has shown that HPV vaccines can prevent 9 out of 10 cases of cervical cancer related to HPV types 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 short-term.

Dolly Parton Vaccine GIF by GIPHY News

The World Health organisation’s Global advisory committee and The Health products Regulatory authority analysed data 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!

If you would like to support us and the work that we do,  you can find out more below ❤

Supported By

Our Pro bono Partners