Parents warned over online misinformation about life-saving vaccines
The HSE has rolled out the HPV vaccination programme for boys for the first time.
Parents have been urged to avoid pseudoscience and misinformation on social media when making decisions about life-saving vaccinations.
Health Minister Simon Harris warned about the dangers of sourcing information about vaccines from people who are not health care professionals.
He made the comments as the HSE rolls out the HPV vaccination programme for boys for the first time.
The uptake of the HPV vaccine has jumped to 70%, an increase of 20% over the last two years.
Health Minister Simon Harris launching the roll out of the HPV vaccine. It is now being given to all first year students, including boys for the first time. pic.twitter.com/zK7K3GY2Dz— Cate McCurry (@CateMcCurry) August 27, 2019
More than 60,000 information packs will be delivered across the country this week before HSE vaccination teams visit secondary schools in September.
Ireland is one of more than 20 countries to offer the gender neutral programme.
Each year in Ireland about 400 men and women develop HPV-related cancers, resulting in more than 100 deaths.
In a bid to crack down on online misinformation about vaccines, Mr Harris said he will write to social media companies to seek a meeting.
I intend to write to social media companies this week and seek to meet them to discuss how we can work together to promote factual information about vaccines and stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation. We all need to work together #VaccinesSaveLives— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) August 27, 2019
“I completely understand that every parent wants to do what’s best for their children and wants to protect them at all costs,” he said.
“I want to direct parents to immunisation.ie where you can get the facts.
“Stay away from the pseudoscience and the tweet machine and all these other sources of disinformation and misinformation.
“I really would call on social media companies to redouble their efforts in debunking the misinformation and making sure that their mediums are not used to spread lies about life-saving vaccines.
“The safety of this vaccine has been so well established by so many independent agencies.
“I do need to acknowledge a number of the social media companies have stepped up to the plate and have said that they will crack down on this. Unfortunately, not all of them.”
Worldwide, we know these vaccines work. We don't want to be followers, we want to be leaders Simon Harris
HPV is a virus that can cause cervical cancer and other cancers in men and women.
Mr Harris said Scotland has seen a 90% fall in HPV infections after 90% of girls received vaccinations since 2008.
“Pre-cancerous growth of the cervix have been reduced by more than 50% in countries such as Australia, Sweden and Scotland,” he added.
“Finland recently published evidence that the HPV vaccine protects against invasive HPV-associated cancer. So worldwide, we know these vaccines work.
“We don’t want to be followers, we want to be leaders.”
He also paid tribute to HPV campaigner Laura Brennan, who died in March.
1/ Seeing so much anti vax on social media lately is really concerning and to top it off @LMFMRADIO aired a scaremongering piece on the HPV vaccine with an anti vaxxer. We know the HPV vaccine is safe and effective and will save life’s. Cervical cancer on the other hand....— Remembering Laura Brennan (@laura_jbrennan) October 15, 2018
Her brother Kevin Brennan attended Tuesday’s launch to urge all first-year students to get the vaccine.
“Today is a bittersweet day for us, the family,” he said.
“We’re delighted Laura has played a part in helping to protect so many young people from HPV cancers. The introduction of the boys’ vaccination programme is very welcome news.
“We’re all very aware of Laura’s absence today and how much she would have loved to share this occasion with us.
“Laura poured herself into this campaign, knowing every time she told her story, it had the potential to save a life.”
Dr Lucy Jessop, director of the National Immunisation Office, urged the public to correct people who spread inaccurate or misleading information.
“Research shows that more people, especially teenagers, get vaccinated when vaccines are given in school,” she added.
“We’re now coming to a time where we could eliminate certain types of cancer caused by HPV, and what a great legacy that would be to leave our children and grandchildren.
“We can only achieve this by continuing to work together to share the facts about the HPV vaccine and the HPV virus and ensuring we have a high uptake of the HPV vaccine.”