THE Government has been accused of betraying around 30,000 young girls who were promised the cervical cancer vaccine before summer after the roll-out date for administering it has been pushed back.
Health Minister Mary Harney said last month that girls in first year of secondary school would get the HPV vaccine in June.
But “logistical” difficulties mean it will now be deferred until September at the earliest and is likely to include both first and second year girls in the initial stages.
It’s understood the HSE wants more time to engage in discussions with school principals, boards of management and other stakeholders.
HSE assistant director of population health, Kevin Kelleher said there were a number of “key challenges” in introducing the vaccine by June.
Most school vaccination documentation is completed on paper but a computer system is needed for the HPV vaccine so records can be linked with future screening programmes.
Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly yesterday told the Dáil that this was “another betrayal of the girls of this country”.
But a spokesperson for the Department of Health said all 30,000 girls currently in first year will be given the vaccine as promised.
The spokesperson said “logistical aspects of the programme have to be worked out” and Ms Harney intends to discuss these with the HSE in the near future.
Last month Ms Harney reversed an earlier Government decision to scrap the vaccination programme because of funding shortages.
Ms Harney announced in January that 30,000 girls aged 12 would be vaccinated at a cost of €3 million.
This was significantly less than the original cost of €16m for vaccines and administration which the Government cited as the reason it reneged on a promise to give it to young girls in September 2009.
The vaccine, to be given with parental consent, will be administered in three injections over six months and protects against the strains of the human papilloma virus (HPV), which causes 70% of cervical cancers.
Around 200 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually and 90 die from the disease. An adult national screening programme started in September 2008.
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