I almost can’t believe that vaccines, and specifically the HPV vaccine, are back in the news. (I say “almost” because I am no longer surprised by the stupidity of human beings). There was a headline in the news today celebrating the fact that there has been an increase in the uptake of the HPV vaccine in young girls, from 51% to 62%.

While an increase is to be applauded, 62% is still shockingly low. Last August it was as low as 50%. That’s only every second girl in secondary school getting the vaccine.

Sorry, but I’m struggling with that. Our headlines are filled with drunk celebrities, Facebook scandals and the general nastiness of people. There should be outrage that the uptake is ONLY 60%, instead of celebrating that fact. I know there is a lot of scaremongering about vaccines and their side effects, but I can’t agree with that.

I have worked in places where vaccines are researched, developed and made, and the rules and regulations around them are incredibly strict and tightly controlled. I have also worked where food and drinks are made and tested – the rules on those are much more loose and relaxed, and we happily stuff that into our faces on a daily basis.

The HPV vaccine is given in 2 doses in secondary school, and that’s it. Done. Add to this the list of diseases that have actually been wiped out due to vaccines, and it’s a no-brainer.

We no longer have to worry about our kids getting Smallpox, Polio, Malaria (in this part of the world) and a whole host of other horrible, life-threatening diseases. And that’s not due to prayers or ‘likes’ on social media. It’s down to vaccines.

Ask anyone to name a common disease that touches every family in Ireland in some way, and the vast majority of them will say cancer. Thousands of researchers are desperately searching for the cure. Well this goes one better – it prevents cancer. The HPV virus causes cervical cancer, and there are 10 variations of this cancer. The HPV vaccine protects against 7 of these varieties.

In Ireland alone, 300 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year and 90 women (nearly 1 in 3) die. Each year.

So far, 230,000 girls have been vaccinated in Ireland since 2006, and just over 1,100 reactions have occurred, most of them covered by the expected side effects. That’s 0.005% chance of side effects. I like those odds.

So please, please don’t get your medical information from Dr Google – just for fun, I googled ‘side effects of Calpol’ and found I could be giving my child asthma and organ failure from the strawberry flavoured pain relief! You can also find harmful side effects from drinking cold water.

If you have concerns, go to the World Health Organisation site. And if you don’t believe me, go and speak to your doctor.