Minister was speaking as he attended EPSCO Council Meeting of EU Health Ministers in Brussels.
Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, has welcomed the announcement by the Health Information and Quality Authority that the proposed extension of the HPV vaccination programme to boys will be both clinically and cost effective.
The Minister thanked the HIQA for its work and committed to working with the Department of Health to progress these plans next year.
Minister Harris said:
“Funding has already been made available in the budget to facilitate the introduction of this initiative in 2019, subject to a favourable recommendation being made in the assessment report."
“The content of the assessment report will be reviewed by officials in my department and I expect to make an announcement on this proposal shortly.”
The Minister is attending a council meeting of EU Health Ministers today (7 December) where vaccination will be a key focus and Ministers will discuss the challenges presented by an increasingly digitised world.
Speaking from Brussels, Minister Harris said:
“The efficacy of vaccination is well documented. The virtual eradication of Smallpox and elimination of Polio; increased protection for women and girls against cervical cancer; protection of the vulnerable against influenza – all are due to vaccination."
“There have been attempts to spread fear and scaremonger. This came to light here in when there was an attempt to link the HPV vaccine with serious side effects. This continues to be a problem for Member States."
“This can have negative, and potentially long-lasting, consequences, particularly when such views are spread through online media.”
The Minister said:
“This is an issue that we in Ireland have not been immune to. However, thanks to the efforts of the HSE and like-minded groups such as the HPV Alliance, we are seeing some of the negative trends being reversed.”
The Minister noted that anti-vaccination campaigns led to a significant drop in uptake rates of the HPV vaccine. However, the work of the HSE in promoting its HPV Information Campaign has resulted an increase in uptake rates to 65% in 2018.
Minister Harris added:
“Technology and online media can be a force for good when used in the public interest. The excellent work that the HSE has invested into its National Flu Plan serves as an excellent example of this. However, we must be cognisant of the pitfalls of relying on social media for health advice.”