The Heights Medical Centre is one of the GP practices where vaccine against the Human papilloma virus (HPV) is available.
What is Human papilloma virus?
Human papillomavirus (HPV) is a group of more than 200 viruses. Most people will get a HPV infection during their lifetime, usually from sexual activity. Most of these infections do not need treatment but they can cause genital warts. In some women, however, HPV infection causes changes in the cervix that can develop into cervical cancer. HPV infection is most common in people in their late teens and early 20s. HPV infection rates are now known to be rising rapidly among women and men in high-income countries like Ireland.
How is HPV transmitted?
HPV can be transmitted during sexual intercourse or skin to skin contact with an infected person. Transmission from mother to baby can also occur immediately before or after birth.
What is cervical cancer?
Cervical cancer is a cancer of a woman’s cervix, the entrance to the womb.
How common is cervical cancer?
In Ireland, about 300 women get cervical cancer and 90 women die from it every year. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years. Worldwide cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women with over 500,000 new cases and over 250,000 deaths in 2012.
How does HPV infection cause cervical cancer?
HPVs associated with cancer are called oncogenic or ‘high risk’ types. HPVs that do not cause cancer are termed ‘low risk’ types. Types of HPV most frequently found in cervical ancers are HPV 16 and 18 that together are believed to cause 70% of all cervical cancers.
HPV can infect the cells on the surface of the cervix and damage them, causing their appearance to change and lead to abnormalities in these cells over a number of years. These abnormalities are known as Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia (CIN). These changes are classified according to their severity. A mild change is known as CIN 1 and a severe change is called CIN 2 or 3. These more severe changes can develop into cervical cancer. The progression of mild and severe changes to cancer takes many years so these abnormalities are known as pre-cancerous states. These changes are diagnosed when women attend for their regular smear tests with national CervicalCheck screening programme.
Every year over 6,500 women are diagnosed with CIN and need hospital treatment to prevent cervical cancer caused by the HPV virus. Unfortunately, current treatment modalities can lead to infertility problems, miscarriage and premature delivery.
Recent research has also shown that the HPV viruses might be responsible for, at least, four other cancers including head and neck (tonsil and base of tongue), vaginal, vulvar and anal cancers. These cancers affect both women and men and are all increasing in incidence in high-income countries like Ireland.
Why is HPV vaccine important?
The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects from infection of the HPV types most commonly found in human cervical cancer.
The vaccine is recommended by the World Health Organization,the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and the National Immunisation Advisory Committee as well.
How safe the HPV is?
The HPV vaccines have been shown to be very safe. For more than 12 years the safety of the HPV vaccine has been strictly monitored and frequently reviewed by many international bodies including the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety of the World Health Organization, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US. These international bodies have continually reported that the vaccine is safe with no known long-term side effects. As of July, 2017, the World Health Organization considers HPV vaccines to be extremely safe.
Typical short term side effect the vaccine might cause include:
- pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given;
- and/or a mild fever.
These can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Vaccines curretnly available in Ireland are licensed by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) and the European Medicines Agency (EMA). These agencies have strict procedures for the licensing and monitoring of all vaccines to ensure their safety and effectiveness. Over 244 million doses of Gardasil® have been distributed worldwide, either as part of national immunisation programmes or by private doctors. Gardasil® is currently used in over 25 European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In Ireland, 660,000 doses of Gardasil® have been administered and more than 240,000 girls have been fully vaccinated against HPV as of August, 2018.
In January 2017, all 69 US National Cancer Institute NCI-designated Cancer Centers Endorsed HPV Vaccination
“As national leaders in cancer research and clinical care, we are compelled to collectively call upon parents and health care providers to increase vaccination rates so our nation’s children don’t grow up to become cancer patients. HPV vaccines, like all vaccines (used in the U.S.), have passed extensive safety testing before and after being approved. The vaccines have a safety profile similar to that of other vaccines approved for adolescents in the U.S. Internationally, the safety of HPV vaccines has been tested and approved by the World Health Organization’s Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety”.
In 2018 all 70 US National Cancer Institute NCI-designated Cancer Centers endorsed goal of eliminating HPV related cancers by HPV vaccination and screening. High HPV vaccination rates combined with cervical cancer screening and treatment will result in the elimination of cervical cancer in the near future and elimination of other HPV-related cancers thereafter.
Who can get the HPV vaccine?
The HSE has offered the HPV vaccine to all girls in first year in second level schools. However, if you have finished second level school, you will not be able to get the HPV vaccine though the HSE school vaccination programme. Also, boys attending second level schools are not included in the national HPV vaccination programme. Thus, if you would like to get yourself or your son vaccinated with HPV vaccine, please click here to contact us at for the price of the vaccine and administration.