The Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) are supporting the Public Health Agency (PHA) HPV (human papilloma virus) vaccine programme which commences across the region from Monday 16 September 2019.
The vaccine is offered as part of the school-based vaccination programme, with boys eligible for the first time this year. This is because the evidence is clear that the HPV vaccine helps protect both boys and girls from HPV infection and associated cancers. The vaccine will be given to children in year 9 during the first school term.
Irene McSorley, School Nursing Team Lead for the Western Trust said: “The Western Trust’s School Nursing Team are delighted that from this September the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine will be offered to boys for the first time to help prevent the spread of HPV and stop certain types of cancers forming. By offering it to boys as well as girls it will protect more people and reduce the spread of the virus so that we can stop it from destroying lives. Cervical cancer is currently the most common cancer in women under 35. This vaccine is so important in preventing these unnecessary deaths as well as helping to protect both men and women from other cancers linked to the virus. The HPV campaign will commence across all post-primary schools in the Western Trust area starting from Monday 16 September 2019 for a two week period.”
Irene added: “Your son or daughter will be given a consent form and information leaflets from the School Nursing Department via their school and I would urge parents or carers to discuss this important vaccine with their child, complete the consent form and return to the school nurse via the school. Further information can be obtained by contacting the School Nursing Department within your local area or by T: (028) 82835171.”
Dr Jillian Johnston, Consultant in Health Protection at the PHA, said: “The HPV vaccine will help protect your child against HPV infection and associated cancers, including over 70% of cervical cancers in women, and cancers of the mouth, throat, anus and genitals in men and women.
“It is given in the same way as other common vaccines through an injection in the upper arm. The body reacts by making antibodies that will help the immune system fight HPV infection. For the vaccine to work fully, two injections will be needed within a 12 month period. It is important that your son or daughter has both vaccinations to get maximum protection. The vaccine cannot cause HPV infection or cancer.
“HPV is very common and is easily spread through sexual activity. Although it is very unlikely that your son or daughter is at risk of HPV infection at this age, it is recommended that they have the vaccine now because studies show that protection from the vaccine is better when it is given at an earlier age.”
Parents will have or will soon receive information about the vaccine and when the vaccination programme commences in their child’s school. If your son or daughter doesn’t get the vaccine in Year 9, he or she will be offered it again in Year 10.
“I would urge all parents or guardians to talk to their children about the importance of getting the vaccine, and ensure that consent forms for those who are eligible are returned to the school and that they complete the course of vaccines when offered during the forthcoming school year.
“Even though the vaccine has only been available in the UK for girls for nine years, it is very exciting that decreases in pre-cancerous lesions in the cervix and in genital warts have already been seen. It is estimated that the level of protection offered by the vaccine will last for at least 10 years so it is very important that your child receives the vaccine to help protect him or her from HPV infection and associated cancers.”
If parents have any questions about the vaccine, they can find more information on the PHA website www.publichealth.hscni.net or can contact their school nurse directly.