Friday 15 February 2019

'I wasn't fully informed' - bishop sorry for HPV remarks

Bishop Phonsie Cullinan
Bishop Phonsie Cullinan

The Bishop of Waterford and Lismore has apologised after warning that a cervical cancer vaccine could lead to promiscuity.

Dr Phonsie Cullinan last week hit out at efforts to prevent the human papillomavirus (HPV) infection among women by saying "we have to do better than to give our boys condoms and our girls injections at the age of 12".

After being roundly criticised by Health Minister Simon Harris and medical chiefs, the senior cleric issued a statement accepting that he had not been "fully informed".

"I wish to apologise for contributing to any misinformation, or indeed for causing upset to anyone, concerning use of the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines," said Dr Cullinan.

He said he initially spoke out after parents had raised concerns about the HPV vaccine.

"My intention was solely motivated to protect people from the HPV," he said.

"I was not fully informed about the vaccination programme and I can see now how HPV vaccines can contribute greatly to lowering the rate of cervical cancer.


"As I have learned, possession of full information is paramount on this vital health issue," he added.

Mr Harris had described the bishop's initial remarks as "ignorant".

The HSE, which has previously warned parents about conflicting and misleading information, said his criticism of the vaccination programme could endanger women's lives.

The HPV vaccine used in Ireland is Gardasil. It is said to protect against two high-risk types of the virus, one of the most common sexually transmitted infections.

Vaccinations against the HPV virus fell by half last year amid scares over side-effects, but the uptake has since stabilised.

Since 2010, more than 230,000 girls have been vaccinated, with about 1,000 reporting adverse reactions.

Ireland has one of the highest cervical cancer rates in Europe, with more than 90 women dying from the disease every year and more than 280 others needing surgery, chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy.

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