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Health Minister announces HPV vaccine uptake figures and catch up programme

Monday, 30 March 2009

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey today welcomed the publication of uptake rates for immunisation against the Human papillomavirus (HPV) and announced details of a one-off catch-up programme.

The programme to immunise girls against HPV, which can cause cervical cancer, was officially launched on 3 September 2008. The uptake rate for Northern Ireland as of the end of January 2009 is 89.56% for the first dose and 84.28% for the second dose.

The Minister said: “Cervical cancer kills around 40 women every year in Northern Ireland and touches the lives of many more. The HPV vaccine is a major breakthrough in the fight against cancer and will help prevent young women from developing a potentially deadly disease.

“I welcome these impressive results and congratulate all those involved for their help in ensuring the successful introduction of the HPV immunisation programme. Almost 90% of Year 9 girls have received their first dose of the vaccine and to date 84.28% have gone on to receive their second dose. Much of the credit for this high uptake rate, and the health benefits to come, must go to schools for accommodating and facilitating the programme and to the school health service for delivering it.”

The Minister went on to provide details of a one-off catch up programme.

He said: “I am also pleased to announce an accelerated catch-up programme to enable all girls born between 2 July 1991 and 1 July 1995 the opportunity to receive the HPV vaccination in 2009/2010. The original intention had been to spread this programme over two school years. However, significant savings have been achieved in the vaccine procurement which will allow us to deliver the catch-up programme in a single year.”

He added: “Ultimately the vaccination programme is about saving lives and preventing the suffering, distress and anxiety caused by cancer. I would encourage all parents to continue to consent for their child to have the vaccine.”

Notes to Editors:

1. Around 1,000 women die from cervical cancer in the UK each year. Each year in Northern Ireland approximately 80 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed, resulting in between 30 and 40 deaths per annum. Cervical cancer is the second most common form of cancer in young women worldwide.

2. Northern Ireland Cancer Registry data shows that in 2004 there were 73 cases and in 2005, there were 87 cases in Northern Ireland. This resulted in 37 and 19 deaths respectively. Figures are available online.

3. Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus or HPV, which is spread from one person to another during sexual activity (not necessarily sexual intercourse). Both men and women can become infected with this virus. There are over 100 types of HPV but only 13 of these are known to cause cervical cancer and just two types – types 16 and 18 - cause over 70% of the cases.

4. The HPV vaccine will protect against types 16 and 18 which are the two most common types causing cervical cancer. The vaccine will not protect against the remaining cancer causing types, so it will be vital that in future those who have been vaccinated continue to go for routine cervical screening.

5. Following discussions with colleagues from the Health and Social Services Boards and the Health and Social Care Trusts, the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety now proposes that the catch-up programme should be delivered as follows:

  • During the school year 2009/10, in addition to the routine (Year 9) immunisation programme, all girls in Year 11 and Year 12 would be offered HPV immunisation at school.
  • Girls born between 2 July 1991 and 1 July 1993 i.e those in years 13 & 14 and those aged 17 and 18 years who have left school, will be offered HPV immunisation by their GPs, starting from April 2009.

6. The school-based catch-up programme would therefore be completed in 2009/10. From 2010/11 onwards schools will be asked to accommodate only the routine programme for Year 9 girls on an annual basis.

7. Media queries to DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0571. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.