The fall-off in take-up of the HPV vaccine, which defends against cervical cancer, was highest among schoolgirls in Kerry during the last academic year, new figures reveal.
The take-up released to just 39.8pc in the county. Other counties which saw a major collapse included Wexford, west Cork, Mayo, Wicklow and Roscommon.
The loss of confidence in the vaccine was linked to unfounded fears about its safety, and which experts have since removed. The drop meant only 51pc of schoolgirls got the vaccine last year – in contrast to a rate of well over 80pc in previous terms.
A HSE agent said provisional figures display some recovery in take-up during the newest round of vaccination in this school year. She said there was an average increment of 11pc, bringing the take-up to 62pc. However, this means thousands of the 40,000 eligible schoolgirls are still not getting the job.
Dr Brenda Corcoran, head of the HSE’s National Immunisation Office, said the recovery to 62pc is a “very positive development for all those young girls who are now protected”.
She added: “We have been particularly encouraged by the positive feedback we got from our vaccination teams in all areas of the country in relation to their experiences and their interaction with the girls and their parents.
“Uptake has incremented in all areas which is particularly heartening as it illustrates that the message was heard right across the country.”
Dr Corcoran said that despite the rise “we are very conscious of the ongoing need to assure that this message is heard and more parents ensure their daughters are vaccinated”.
The Health Protection Surveillance Centre, which collected last year’s statistics, said the decline in the uptake is a concern.
Every year in Ireland about 300 women get cervical cancer and 90 die from it. Cervical cancer is the second most common cause of death due to cancer in women aged 25 to 39 years.