Cervical cancer vaccine proceeds


Up to 30,000 girls in first year at secondary school are to be offered the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine against cervical cancer by this summer.

In 2008, the Government said it was not in a position to introduce the vaccine on cost grounds. However, Minister for Health Mary Harney said this afternoon that following talks with pharmaceutical companies the price for the vaccine has been "quashed".

She said originally the cost of introducing the HPV vaccine scheme was estimated at €16 million but the new price was €3 million.

"The vaccine will be offered free of charge this year for approximately 30,000 girls who are now in first year of secondary school," Ms Harney said. "This is the same group of girls who would have received the vaccine under the previous plan for 2009."

The minister also announced plans to establish a national colorectal screening service.

She said that detailed preparations would commence immediately and screening would be introduced from 2012.

Research published last year by the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) found that the vaccination scheme was the most cost-effective strategy option in the Irish healthcare setting regarding the prevention of HPV types 16 and 18, which account for 70 per cent of all cervical cancers.

Evidence from the European Cervical Cancer Association (ECCA) concerning the vaccination’s effectiveness shows that a nationwide free school-based programme is vital to achieve coverage of more than 85 per cent of the target population.

Fine Gael this afternoon welcomed the decision to introduce the cervical cancer vaccine programme and colorectal cancer screening

“It is not often that I have cause to commend the health minister but I am happy to do so without reservation on her announcement today. A wrong has been righted and lives will be saved as a result of this initiative,” said health spokesman Dr James Reilly.

“It was always my view that this vital health measure could be introduced affordably through negotiation with the pharmaceutical companies and I am glad to see that this has now come to pass."

Senator Phil Prendergast of the Labour Party praised the savings secured by the Minister.

“She should be applauded for squeezing a better deal from these companies, but the question now arises, that if she was able to play hardball with these multi-national companies in December 2009, why was she not able to do so in October 2008?”

Liz Hoctor, president of the Irish Pharmacy Union, said these were "very positive developments for patients and will lead to the early detection and treatment of colorectal cancer and reduce the risk of cervical cancer among women".