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Senator Martin Conway

Conway: use our vaccination centres to give the HPV jab

CONCERNS shared by the family of the late Laura Brennan about the effect Covid-19 has had on the roll-out of the HPV vaccine have been highlighted in the Seanad.
Senator Martin Conway has urged the government to “think outside the box”, suggesting Covid-19 vaccination centres could be used to administer the HPV vaccine alongside drafting in pharmacists.
The Fine Gael Senator recalled the “phenomenal work” that Laura Brennan did in promoting the vaccine prior to her death.
“We are all fully aware of the immense challenges that have been posed by the Covid-19 pandemic but this vaccine is extremely important. It is critical to the future health of girls and boys,” he said.
He continued, “The pandemic caused difficulties, particularly in the delivery of the programme within schools. It is well-recognised that giving the vaccine in schools has resulted in a significantly higher uptake. We need to think outside the box.
“We have had vaccine capacity in some of the Covid-19 vaccine centres over the past number of months, and probably will have in the future.
“There is no reason the HPV vaccine could not be offered in those settings. Many trained vaccinators have still not been redeployed to the Covid-19 programme and while they are waiting to take up those roles, perhaps they could be redeployed into roles giving this vaccine.”
He added that pharmacists have also indicated they are willing to help deliver the vaccine.
He also voiced concerns about the “punitive” cost of getting the vaccine done privately, urging that this be reduced.
Responding, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Robert Troy acknowledged the good work the Brennan family are doing in their advocacy of the vaccine.
He outlined the school-based immunisation programme for the 2019-20 academic year has been completed and uptake of the HPV vaccine was 82% for the first dose and 77% for the second.
“This is the highest rate of uptake under the HPV vaccination programme since 2015-16, and it is particularly encouraging because it was the first year boys were included in the programme.
“The programme for academic year 2020-21 was paused during the first few months of 2021 due to school closures and the redeployment of staff of the Covid-19 immunisation programme.
“The inputting of uptake information for the school-based programme has also been delayed due to the redeployment of administrative staff. However, community healthcare organisations have reported that the vast majority of second level schools had their first dose of the HPV vaccine delivered between October 2020 and December 2020.
“The uptake rate for the first dose of the HPV vaccine in the 2020-21 academic year is 63%, and this figure is expected to increase because data input on the vaccine uptake is ongoing.
“Plans are now being developed by the HSE for the recommencement of the vaccination programmes, including the second dose of the HPV vaccine.”

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