Dr Robert O’Connor
Director of Research, Irish Cancer Society
The current pandemic has changed many things, but it has not altered our resolve to eliminate cancers caused by HPV.
The COVID-19 virus has caused much disruption and upheaval, but if this seismic global health event has proven anything, it is the power of vaccinations in stopping preventable illness and death.
Another virus, the human papillomavirus (HPV), is a major cause of several cancers in men and women, including those of the throat and cervix.
On average, someone receives a diagnosis of a HPV-caused cancer every single day.
In their lifetime, one in 10 women will need cancer-preventing treatment for HPV infections of their cervix, and HPV-caused cervical cancer takes the lives of two people in this country every week.
Initially, 2020 had been very promising for HPV vaccinations, our best hope at eliminating these cancers in future, with uptake among those eligible to receive the vaccine expected to top 80%. This was following on from the important milestone of extending its availability to boys of secondary school age, prior to the curtailment of the school-based vaccination programme last year due to the pandemic.
Safety must always come first in considering how and when people are vaccinated, but it is clear that we must all redouble our efforts to ensure an effective rollout of the HPV vaccine so we can pick back up on the good work done over the last few years.
At the Irish Cancer Society, we are doing our best to ensure that cancer does not become the forgotten C in the time of COVID-19.