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Vaccination Programme

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 15 February 2022

Tuesday, 15 February 2022

Ceisteanna (115)

Cathal Crowe

Ceist:

115. Deputy Cathal Crowe asked the Minister for Health if he will consider the roll-out of HPV vaccine mop-up clinics to cater to children that have missed out on same in first year. [7774/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

The immunisation programme in Ireland is based on the advice of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC). The committee's recommendations are based on the prevalence of the relevant disease in Ireland and international best practice in relation to immunisation. It makes recommendations on vaccination policy to my Department. The NIAC continues to revise recommendations to allow for the introduction of new vaccines in Ireland and to keep abreast of changes in the patterns of disease. Therefore, the immunisation schedule will continue to be amended over time.

In 2009, the NIAC recommended HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccination for all 12 to 13 year old girls to reduce their risk of developing cervical cancer when they are adults. In September 2010, the HPV vaccination programme was introduced for all girls in first year of secondary school.

In June 2017, on foot of the NIAC’s recommendation that the HPV vaccine should also be given to boys, my Department asked the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) to undertake a health technology assessment (HTA) to establish the clinical and cost-effectiveness of extending the immunisation programme to include boys in the first year of secondary school.

The HIQA completed the HTA in December 2018, recommending that the HPV immunisation programme be extended to include boys. A policy decision was made to extend the HPV immunisation programme to include boys, starting in September 2019, with the introduction of a 9-valent HPV vaccine.

The ages at which vaccines are recommended in the immunisation schedule are chosen by the NIAC in order to give each child the best possible protection against vaccine preventable diseases. As the HPV vaccine is preventative it is intended to be administered, if possible, before a person becomes sexually active, that is, before a person is first exposed to HPV infection.

Therefore, the gender-neutral HPV vaccination programme targets all girls and boys in first year of secondary school to provide maximum coverage. All vaccines administered through the School Immunisation Programme are provided free of charge.

My Department will continue to be guided by NIAC's recommendations on any emerging evidence on this issue in the future.

Anyone not in 1st year of secondary school, or age equivalent in special schools or home schooled, who wishes to get the HPV vaccine, must go to their GP or sexual health clinic and pay privately for the vaccine and its administration. This applies to everyone whether or not they have a medical card/GP visit card, as it is outside of the HPV immunisation programme.

I have asked my officials to request the National Immunisation Advisory Committee consider the clinical effectiveness of providing the HPV vaccine to:

- girls and boys in secondary school who were eligible to receive HPV vaccine in 1st year but who did not receive it; and

- women up to the age of 25 years who have left secondary school and who did not receive the vaccine when eligible.

If the NIAC conclude that there is sufficient evidence to support providing the HPV vaccine to one or both groups, HIQA will undertake a cost-effectiveness assessment on that basis.

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