This week’s blog is written by David, our Pharmacist in our Navan Shopping Centre store. Stop in and ask him any questions that you or visit your nearest McCauley Pharmacy as our Pharmacists are always ready to help.
As pharmacists, we have recently received information to help us inform parents and students about the school immunisation programme. The school immunisation programme relates to the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, Meningococcal ACWY (MenACWY) and combined Tetanus/Diptheria/Pertussis (Tdap) vaccine1.
The HPV vaccine has been extended this year to include boys in First Year. The evidence is overwhelmingly positive for administering these vaccines in schools in this way to ensure uptake and achieve herd immunity. Herd immunity means we can get rid of the HPV virus and the diseases it causes from the country.
The HPV vaccine was initially offered to all girls in First Year of second level school to help prevent cervical cancer. 2019 is the first year it will be offered to both boys and girls in First Year of second level education.
HPV causes 5% of all cancers worldwide. As we know HPV is one of the leading causes of cervical cancer in women1.
HPV also causes1:
- 9 out of 10 vulval and anal cancers
- 8 out of 10 vaginal cancers
- 9 out of 10 cases of genital warts
Each year in Ireland1:
- HPV cause 406 cancers in both men and women
- Over 6,500 women need hospital treatment for pre-cancer of the cervix
- 300 women get cervical cancer
- 90 women die from cervical cancer
HPV can also cause cancers of the1:
- Mouth and throat (oropharynx)
- Anus (rectum)
Why has the HSE decided that both boys and girls should be vaccinated?
This has been decided because HPV causes cancers that effect both males and females2. In developed countries, where effective cervical cancer screening programmes for women are in place, the amount of HPV associated diseases affecting males and females is now almost equal2. The number of cases of oral and anal HPV associated cancers are increasing and will soon be higher than incidence of cervical cancer. Males and females are equally at risk of these cancers2.
What is the evidence for safety of the HPV vaccine?
The vaccine is called Gardasil 9 (containing nine of the worst types of HPV virus). Originally authorised in 2006 as Gardasil (with 4 types of virus), Gardasil 9 was brought out in 2015. We have twelve years of data on its use initially in Australia (2007) and the UK (2008) and since 2010 in Ireland. With over 200 million vaccines given worldwide so far, large scale clinical trials done, reviews by World Health Organization (WHO) Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) there have been no safety issues found with the HPV vaccine2. It is one of the most studied and safest vaccines we have.
What about sexual activity and paying privately for a vaccination for older children?
HPV is spread by intimate sexual skin to skin contact. If a person has already been exposed to HPV through sexual activity, then the vaccine has been shown to be less effective at preventing HPV-related disease. Parents may wish to have older children in late teens vaccinated or young adults may wish to be vaccinated themselves and will have to pay privately for this. It will likely be less effective if the patient has been exposed to a certain type of HPV in the vaccine, but the vaccine will still give some immunity to the other types in the vaccine. Due to the low risks associated with the HPV vaccine it is worth considering for patients in their teens and early twenties. It is a personal choice and would involve a trip to your GP to get a prescription for the vaccine and then three appointments with a nurse or doctor to get it over the course of 3 months as recommended3.
Check with your Pharmacist to find out what’s right for you.
We can see the HSE has put a lot of effort into alerting the public of the individual benefits to the child and the population benefits of achieving herd immunity. As in the case of Australia, the country has almost no cases of genital warts as well as significant decreases in numbers of high-risk or cancer associated HPV infections and associated cervical pre-cancers2.
There have been stories in social media about the HPV vaccine causing the following: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The HSE say they are aware of these stories. The European Medicines Agency (EMA) conducted research in 2015 and found there was no evidence that the HPV vaccine leads to an increase in these conditions.
Be sure to consult your GP or Pharmacist if you’re unsure about what to do as they can advise you on your options. Stop into your local McCauley Pharmacy as our Pharmacists are always ready to help.