HPV vaccine
Tricky stuff

HPV vaccine: The facts

Essential information for parents of daughters about the Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccine.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine protects girls from developing cervical cancer. The HSE has offered the HPV vaccine to all girls in first year in second level schools since 2010 to protect them from cervical cancer.

The vaccine is recommended by:

  • the World Health Organization
  • the International Federation of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists
  • the National Immunisation Advisory Committee in Ireland
  • the Irish Cancer Society

HSE funded

The HPV vaccine (Gardasil) is available free of charge from the HSE for all girls in first year of second level school. The vaccine is given in schools to get the best uptake.

However, in specific instances some girls may be invited to HSE clinics for their vaccines. The HSE will let parents know the date the school immunisation team will attend their daughter’s school to give the HPV vaccine. If a girl misses the vaccine in school, the HSE will arrange for the girl to be vaccinated at a HSE clinic.

What is HPV?

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name given to a family of viruses. Different types of HPV are either high risk or low risk, depending on the conditions they can cause. For instance, some types of HPV can cause warts or verrucas. Other types can cause cervical cancer. HPV can be transmitted during sexual intercourse or skin to skin contact with an infected person.

HPV infection often clears naturally but sometimes HPV causes changes in the cervix (pre-cancer) that can develop into cervical cancer.

Why is HPV vaccine important?

Every year in Ireland, over 6,500 women need hospital treatment for pre cancer of the cervix, 300 women get cervical cancer, and 90 women die from it. Cervical cancer is caused by HPV.

HPV vaccine protects against seven out of ten cervical cancers. The HSE is offering the vaccine to girls in first year because the vaccine works best when given at this age. The vaccine will protect the girls before adulthood and the likely exposure to HPV.  7 out of 10 cervical cancers can be prevented with HPV vaccine.

HPV vaccine the facts

Is the HPV vaccine safe?

Yes, HPV vaccines have been shown to be very safe. For more than 13 years the safety of the HPV vaccine has been strictly monitored and frequently reviewed by many international bodies including:

  • the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety;
  • the European Medicines Agency (EMA); and
  • the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.

The vaccine can cause some short-term side effects. These may include:

• pain, redness or swelling in the arm where the vaccine was given;
• headache;
• dizziness;
• nausea; and/or
• a mild fever.

These can be treated with paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Five need to know facts.

Many parents are reading and hearing lots of scare stories about HPV vaccine. Here are the facts.


Gardasil HPV vaccine prevents cancer developing. Gardasil HPV vaccine has been scientifically proven to prevent the HPV infection that causes 7 out of 10 cervical cancers. In countries with high HPV vaccine uptake such as Australia and Scotland, precancerous growths of the cervix have been reduced by more than 50%. In Australia, HPV vaccine has prevented 1 in every 2 cervical cancers.


Gardasil HPV vaccine is used worldwide Gardasil HPV vaccine is currently used in over 25 European countries, the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Over 100 million people have been fully vaccinated with Gardasil HPV vaccine worldwide including over 220,000 girls in Ireland.


The side effects of Gardasil HPV vaccine are mild and short lasting. The Patient information Leaflet (PIL) lists the known side effects as, “pain, swelling, itching, bruising, and redness at the injection site, headache, fever, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, and fainting. Allergic reactions including rash, hives and very rarely bronchospam (wheezing)”. The only known severe reaction is anaphylaxis which occurs in about one in every million cases. This is treated by an injection.


Gardasil HPV vaccine is a safe vaccine with no known long term side effects. All international bodies have continually reported that HPV vaccine is safe with no known long-term side effects. The safety profile of Gardasil HPV vaccine has been studied for over 13 years in over one million people during clinical trials and since the vaccine was licensed in 2006. There has been no increase in the rates of any serious long term condition including autoimmune diseases and chronic fatigue syndrome in vaccinated girls.


The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) in Ireland continues to monitor the safety of HPV vaccine. All healthcare professionals and members of the public are encouraged to report any suspected adverse reactions associated with vaccination to the HPRA.

Since the HPV vaccination programme started in 2010 to 30 September 2016:

  • HPRA has received 1065 suspected adverse reactions/events Most of these reports are expected side effects. There have been:
  • 16 reports of chronic fatigue syndrome
  • 10 reports of post viral fatigue
  • 4 reports of an auto immune condition

These conditions occur naturally. The number of reports of these long term conditions are much less than expected. There is no scientific evidence that HPV vaccine caused these conditions.

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Keeping kids safe from abuse


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.


Ask Tracey

Midwife Tracey Donegan answers your questions about pregnancy and birth

Q When should I have my first pregnancy scan? And how many scans should I get throughout my pregnancy?

Your first scan is known as your dating scan and is routine in all hospitals. Most mums will have this scan at their booking visit, which can be anywhere between 12-18 weeks. The earlier the scan the more accurate it will be. If you have experienced recurrent miscarriages some hospitals will scan you earlier. Contact your antenatal clinic for more information. In Ireland, most women will have two scans in a healthy pregnancy – a dating scan and an anomaly scan at around 20 weeks. However, some units provide a dating scan only. Private scans are also available in most cities and many parents use these services for additional reassurance and to find out the sex of their baby.