Cowen accuses Kenny of 'emotional blackmail' over vaccine


Cervical cancer screening provides better cover than a vaccination programme, Taoiseach Brian Cowen claimed today in the Dáil.

Mr Cowen was responding to questions from the Opposition about the recent withdrawal of the vaccination programme for girls.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny told the Taoiseach during Leader’s Question that the programme was an issue on which the Government could have cross-party support

He added that Fine Gael would be willing to assist Mr Cowen in finding the necessary sums to continue the €10 million programme before pointing out that the Government would be spending a similar figure “on advisors, press officers and support for ministers” this year alone.

The Taoiseach dismissed suggestions that non-provision of the vaccine put people at risk saying the screening programme provides 95 per cent cover and has a far greater percentage cover than the vaccine itself.

Mr Cowen accused Mr Kenny of resorting to “emotional blackmail” by suggesting that the withdrawal vaccination programme would lead to loss of life.

“You’re making assertions that simply aren’t true and you’re doing it using populist arguments, using emotional blackmail and you’re wrong,” said the Taoiseach.

“There is no healthcare system that has brought in a vaccination programme before a full national screening programme was in place. We are putting a screening programme in place which will save lives of the age cohort which is relevant in this regard with 300,000 people screened next year…and it is the screening programme which identifies the pre-cancerous cells and ensures that cervical cancer doesn’t take hold.”

The Taoiseach added that while the vaccination programme would not be going ahead next year, the Government would keep the matter under review.

Leader of the Labour Party Eamon Gilmore also criticised the cancellation of the vaccination programme.

“It’s not impossible to find the €10 million necessary for this programme to go ahead. Finding the €10 million is not going to put the public finances in disarray. It amounts to no more than maybe €0.5 million across all the Government departments,” said Mr Gilmore.

A Fine Gael motioncalling on the Government to proceed with the scheme will be debated this evening.