While the junior minister at the Department of Health Finian McGrath performed a spectacular U-turn in recent days over his previous opposition to the HVP programme being administered to secondary school girls in an effort to to prevent cervical cancer a Sligo TD would also appear to have changed his stance over the controversial drug.Tony McLoughlin, Sligo/Leitrim TD and Government Assistant Whip had in January of this year asked the health minister Simon Harris if he proposed setting up an independent inquiry to investigate the claims of parents of children “affected by the Gardasil vaccine”.
In a written question to Mr Harris, Deputy McLoughlin said “more and more” parents were contacting their public representatives.
He said they wanted to inform the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the HSE “regarding the extent of these previously unidentified health problems of their children who pre-vaccination had no had no medical conditions requiring constant medical intervention”.The Sligo based TD told The Irish Times on Monday the Minister had assured him the expert advice was that the Gardasil vaccine was safe.
“I spoke to the Minister privately about it because constituents have serious concerns and they are very genuine people. The Minister has assured me the expert advice is that it’s safe,” Mr McLoughlin said. “But it’s unfortunate that there are some people who have been affected by it. This is what they are saying to me.”
Minister McGrath's U-turn was confirmed when he called the Irish Cancer Society to express his “unequivocal support” for the HPV vaccine used to prevent cervical cancer.“Minister McGrath called the CEO of the Irish Cancer Society at lunchtime today, and outlined his unequivocal support for the HPV vaccine,” a spokeswoman for the society confirmed on Monday.
Mr McGrath had angered Government colleagues at the weekend when he stood over previously expressed opposition to the vaccine.
Speaking on Monday, Minister for Health Simon Harris said he had been “very disappointed and frustrated” by Mr McGrath’s comments, which he described as “unfortunate, ill-judged and not based in fact”.
However, he said he was pleased Mr McGrath had acted swiftly to rectify the situation, and expressed confidence in the Independent Alliance Minister’s ability to do his job in the Department of Health.
Mr McGrath was branded “irresponsible” by Labour’s Alan Kelly as his comments came just days after a new campaign to promote a vaccination programme for schoolgirls at second level.
Meanwhile, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone has defended the stance taken by Mr McGrath. She said Mr McGrath had made it clear he now supported the Government’s policy on the use of the vaccine but was entitled to express the concerns of some parents who were opposed to the vaccine.
In the UK the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation is reviewing as to whether boys should also be given the jab, which can protect against throat and penile cancers. The committee have requested that Public Health England (PHE) review the cost-effectiveness of the change.
Boys are routinely vaccinated against HPV in several developed nations such as Australia and the US.