Rally against cervical cancer vaccine cuts today


AN APPEAL on Facebook to campaign against cervical cancer vaccine cuts has snowballed into a public demonstration.

The protest over the decision by Minister for Health Mary Harney to scrap the introduction of a cervical cancer vaccine programme for 12-year-old girls next year is due to take place at 2pm today on Dublin's O'Connell Street.

The rally has unusually been organised on the internet through a discussion group on the social networking site Facebook and the Feminist Open Forum.

Shauneen Armstrong, who set up the Facebook group at lunchtime on Wednesday, said it already had 2,000 members.

While she works for the Labour Party, she says the initiative is a personal one, as a mother of a 16-year-old girl. Ms Armstrong says she feels her daughter, like other young girls, should be protected in so far as is possible from cervical cancer.

"I find it absolutely shocking that there is a vaccine that would stop 70 per cent of our daughters getting cervical cancer and we are not giving it . . . it's mad," she said.

The rally at the Spire on O'Connell Street will be followed by a public meeting in the Teachers Club, Parnell Square, at 3.30pm.

Ms Armstrong said it was impossible to speculate on how many would attend. "Because its all been done online its quite hard to gauge how many will turn up.

"But if the sentiments in this group are anything to go by, there will be a large turnout," she said.

Ms Harney announced just over a week ago that due to financial difficulties the plan to vaccinate all 12-year-olds against the most common strains of the virus that cause cervical cancer from September 2009 could not go ahead. The vaccination programme would have cost €10 to €15 million next year. Ms Harney said the scarce resources were being put instead into the rollout of the national cervical cancer screening programme, which aims to pick up precancerous cells in an older age group.