Independent Senator Lynn Ruane has called on the Department of Health to amend its policy of only offering the HPV vaccination free of charge to first year students.
Speaking in the Seanad last week, Senator Ruane requested that the Government revise the programme, citing the financial burden some families face if they decide to vaccinate their child after the first year of secondary school.
Currently, all first year students are offered the HPV vaccine free of charge but if a family decides to vaccinate their child at a later date it can cost up to €700.
Senator Ruane said that disadvantaged communities are negatively effected the most by the policy.
“If you don’t get the HPV vaccine in first year, you are then excluded from that process unless you have €700,” Senator Ruane said.
“It is disadvantaged communities that we have seen the biggest drop in the uptake of the vaccine.
“I would like the Minister to reassess the policy and look to when a parent does positively engage with the HPV programme that we do create avenues for them to be able to access – while they’re still in second level – the HPV vaccine free of charge,” she said.
Senator Ruane cited a 2014 study by the Irish Medical Foundation that found disadvantage schools had a six percent lower mean uptake of the HPV vaccine and were twice as likely to have an uptake of below 50%.
The average uptake of the vaccination in schools was 64.1%.
In responding to Senator Ruane, the Minister of State with responsibility for Public Health, Well Being and National Drugs Strategy, Frank Feighan, said that the Department of Health is guided National Immunisation Advisory Committee (NIAC) in relation to vaccinations.
He said: “The NIAC continues to revise recommendations to allow for the introduction on new vaccines in Ireland and to keep abreast of changes in the pattern of disease.
“Therefore, the immunisation schedule continues to be amended.”
Minister Feighan said that he has “listened to Senator Ruane and the fact that if people do change their mind, they can be charged up to €700.
“It makes sense and it will bring the recommendation back to the Department of Health so that will hopefully be looked into.”