In this Health Hub article, we explore the signs and symptoms of HPV, the vaccine offered by the HSE and the side effects of the vaccine.
There has been a lot of coverage of the HPV vaccine in the media recently. Here we present some facts, figures and pharmacist advice related to both the HPV vaccine and the Human Papillomavirus itself.
What is HPV?
- Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a family of viruses and is the most common sexually transmitted disease in the world
- In most cases, HPV will go away on its own with time. However, in other cases more serious developments can occur.
In these cases, an infection can lead to the development of cervical cancer in women.
Facts & Figures
- HPV type 16 & 18 cause 70% of cervical cancers, as well as 85% of anal cancers
- Over 220,000 vaccines have been administered in Ireland since 2010
- The European Cervical Cancer Association stated that Ireland has the best cervical check and HPV vaccination programmes in Europe and is completely free of charge
There has been a 90% drop in HPV infections in the UK since vaccination started there in 2008
Signs & Symptoms of HPV
- Infection with HPV may often be symptomless
- In the high-risk strains, it will cause abnormal cell and tissue changes which will lead to cervical, genital or anal cancers
- Other strains may cause;
- genital/anal warts
- skin warts
- warts on the voice box
- In Ireland, the HSE offer a free vaccination programme and is offered to girls each year in their secondary school
- The idea behind the HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is to prevent the development of precancerous lesions associated with four of the high-risk HPV types (6, 11, 16, 18)
- Vaccinations will take place either at the schools by an immunisation team or in a HSE clinic
- The HPV vaccine should be administered before exposure to sexual contact and is recommended to be administered to all girls aged 12-13 years for maximum effect
- The vaccine is given in two doses; 6 months apart for girls less than 15 years, and in three doses for females aged 15-26
HPV Vaccine Effects
Side effects are short-term and mild
- 1 in 10 will have redness and pain at the injection site
- 1 in 100 will experience nausea, headache or a mild fever
- 1 in 1,000- 10,000 may experience hives or an itchy rash
Frequently Asked Questions
Q. How much is the vaccine?
A. The vaccine is free for girls up to the age of 26, otherwise, it costs €150 per vaccine.
Q. Is it covered on the Drugs Payment Scheme?
A. No, Gardasil is not covered by the Drugs Payment Scheme and must be paid for privately at €150 per vaccine.
Q. Can males get the vaccine?
A. Yes – HPV vaccines have also been shown to be effective in preventing infection in men, however, men are currently not covered under the Irish scheme as the main goal of the programme is to prevent the development of cervical cancer, which does not affect men. If you are interested in getting your son vaccinated it must be purchased and administered privately with your GP.
Q. Is the vaccine safe?
A. There are no serious side effects scientifically proven to be associated with the HPV vaccine; this includes no link between HPV vaccine and chronic fatigue syndrome
Advice From The Pharmacist
- A vaccination is not a substitution for a smear test, you must still get regular smear tests
It is important to take precautions e.g. condoms against sexually transmitted infections as the HPV vaccination will not protect against every type of HPV infection, or other sexually transmitted infections
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