The number of reported adverse reactions to the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine looks like it will fall substantially in 2017, according to figures released by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).
In information released under the FOI Act, HPRA records show that forty reports of adverse reactions to the vaccine were reported from January to September 2017. So far this year, the number of reports have fallen by 68% when compared to last year.
In 2016, 125 adverse reactions to the vaccine were reported, up from 110 reports in 2015.
The most common HPV vaccine is Gardasil. This vaccine has been administered to girls in first year of secondary schools since September 2009. The vaccine was also issued to sixth year students on a catch-up programme.
Students receive two or three doses of the vaccination.
The vaccination is said to prevent pre-cancerous growths in the female genitalia and cervical and anal cancers. It also protects from some sexually transmitted infections.
Since the introduction of the vaccine in Irish schools, there have been some reports that Irish teenagers have reported serious adverse effects to the HPV vaccine.
These include daily headaches, chronic fatigue, memory and concentration issues, early onset of menopause and neurological issues, according to an online group who claim they or their children suffered negative reactions to the vaccine.
There is not, however, any medical evidence that the adverse reactions reported online is directly linked to the HPV vaccination.
However, in further documentation received under the FOI Act, the Health Service Executive (HSE) do not list any of the above complaints as an adverse reaction to the vaccine in the information provided in the package leaflet.
The HSE say that difficulty breathing (bronchospasm), has very rarely been reported (less than 1 in 10,000 patients). More rarely (less than 1 in every 500,000 to one million patients), anaphylaxis was seen in patients. This is when the immune system overreacts to the presence of a foreign body.
The package leaflet says that other side effects could be experienced following the administration of the HPV vaccination. However, these are not unique to the Gardasil injection and could be experienced following the administration of any vaccination. These include muscle weakness, abnormal sensations, confusion, dizziness, vomiting, aching muscles or unusual tiredness or weakness.
Figure released by the HSE in August 2017 showed that uptake for the vaccine had fallen by 15% in the last two years.
A total of 22,721 first year students received both doses of the HPV vaccine in the 2015/2016 academic year. The previous year, 26,799 girls received both vaccines.
Minister for Health Simon Harris has expressed concern over the falling numbers of girls receiving the vaccine. Addressing the Seanad recently, he emphasised that the HPV vaccination saves lives in countries with high uptake of the vaccination.
Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years. Around 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland every year, with an average of 90 people dying from the disease.
By Louise Burne & Gavin Hyland