Is the HPV vaccine safe? Everything you need to know before 2021 rollout to secondary school students

By Sophie Collins

Parents have been urged to properly research the Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine ahead of deciding whether or not to allow their child to receive it in first year of secondary school - and to avoid 'Dr. Google'.

Cervical cancer is a leading cause of cancer-related death in women, so as part of Ireland's School Vaccination Programme, students are offered the HPV vaccination but will need signed permission from a parent or guardian before they can receive it.

So if you’re wondering what decision to make, here is everything you need to know from recent studies to side effects and myths.

The HPV vaccine

According to the HSE, the safety of the HPV vaccine has been studied for over 15 years and is known to be safe.

Thorough clinical trials with over 1 million people have been studied since the vaccine was licensed in 2006.

“We have over 100 pieces of research about the HPV vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

“No country has raised concerns about the safety of the HPV vaccine, and there is no scientific evidence in Ireland or in any other country that the HPV vaccine causes any long-term medical condition.”

Safety

In Ireland, students in their first year of secondary school are offered the HPV vaccine as part of the School Vaccination Programme, which will commence on September 27, 2021.

The vaccine used is called Gardasil and has been proven effective in protecting against 7 out of 10 cervical cancers.

In September 2020 a study carried out in Sweden showed that girls and women aged 10 to 30 years old, who had been vaccinated with Gardasil saw a major reduction in the risk of invasive cervical cancer.

Is the HPV vaccine safe? Everything you need to know before 2021 rollout to first-year students (Sanofi Pasteur MSD/PA Wire)

Cervical cancer was diagnosed in 538 women who had not received the Gardasil vaccine and in only 19 women who had received the vaccine.

In Ireland, Gardasil 9 vaccine given through the school immunisation programme protects against 9 out of 10 cervical cancers.

Side effects

In relation to any long-term side effects, the HSE states that “all international bodies have continually reported that the vaccines used in Ireland have no long-term side effects.”

In terms of short-term effects, it has been found that most people have no problems after the vaccine, but that it has many of the same, mild side effects as other vaccines.

Some people can develop an area of soreness, swelling, and redness in their arm where the injection was given - but this is nothing to worry about as this usually passes after a day or two.

Some people may get a headache, feel sick or have a slight temperature - paracetamol or ibuprofen will help.

Occasionally, some people may feel unwell and faint after getting their injection, but to prevent this, when someone gets the vaccine they are asked to sit down and rest for 15 minutes after their dose.

Severe allergic reactions to vaccines are very rare, but in this case, school vaccination teams are trained to treat any severe allergic reaction so if you are worried, talk to a member of the school team or your GP.

Myths

The HSE says it is aware of some stories circulating on social media claiming that the HPV vaccine causes an increase in cases of:

  • postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) – an increase in heart rate that can make you feel faint and dizzy
  • complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) – a form of chronic pain that usually affects an arm or a leg

However, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) researched these claims back in 2015 and they found no evidence that the HPV vaccine leads to an increase in these conditions.

Speaking today on Morning Ireland, Assistant Director of Nursing at the Marie Keating Foundation, Bernie Carter said;

"You've got to look at the science and don't call to Dr. Google, because you'll get all the wrong and get all the scary information," she said.

"Go to the World Health Organization, go to the Center of Disease Control, look at our own HSE, and what they're all saying is that the vaccine is safe.

“The vaccine has been trialled and tested in over a million people since 2006, and this vaccine has shown to be safe and to save lives.

"We know that cervical cancer can be prevented ... through the HPV vaccination and, later in life, with HPV cervical screening," she added.


What is inkl?

Important stories

See news based on value, not advertising potential. Get the latest news from around the world.

Trusted newsrooms

We bring you reliable news from the world’s most experienced journalists in the most trusted newsrooms.

Ad-free reading

Read without interruptions, distractions or intrusions of privacy.