Health Minister Mary Harney has decided to reverse her previous decision not to go ahead with a cervical cancer vaccine programme for girls.
She has announced that the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine would be made available before the summer to around 30,000 girls in first year at secondary school free of charge.
The Minister said this is the same group of girls who would have received the vaccine under previous plans for 2009.
These plans were postponed on budgetary grounds, but the Minister said today the cost of the scheme had now reduced substantially, from the initial estimate of €16 million to only €3 million.
She said she was now satisfied that the prices for the vaccine were now similar to that of other markets.
The Minister did not reveal which of the two companies that currently manufacture a cervical cancer vaccine had been successful in tendering for the scheme.
She said following a tendering process, there had been a substantial reduction in the cost of the vaccine supplied by one of the two pharmaceutical companies who tendered for the HPV scheme.
The Minister said €3 million represented the total cost of the supply of the vaccine and its administration.
The vaccine is expected to be administered by HSE public health staff. Each girl will receive three doses of the vaccine.
The Minister said, however she was not in a position to undertake a "catch-up" vaccination programme on older girls.
Fine Gael’s health spokesman Dr James Reilly welcomed the Minister’s decision.
“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.”
Dr Reilly said the programme had been wrongly cancelled in November 2008.
“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 this has now come to pass.”
The Irish Family Planning also welcomed the decision to go ahead with the HPV vaccine.
The combination of population-based screening and school-based vaccination programmes has the potential to eliminate cervical cancer in a generation, according to Niall Behan, Chief Executive of the IFPA.
Around 90 women die from cervical cancer each year.
Get more information on cervical cancer here
View irishhealth.com's video resources on cervical cancer and other conditions here
See also www.cancer.ie
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