A cervical cancer vaccine could soon be available in Ireland, it was revealed today.
Gardasil has received its European licence, according to makers Sanofi Pasteur.
The drug works against the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes changes in cells that leads to cervical cancer.
Gardasil protects against cervical cancer caused by HPV strains 6, 11, 16 and 18, and also against genital warts.
Around 80% of sexually active women can expect to have an HPV infection at some point in their lives.
The jab has caused controversy over plans to give it to girls as young as nine, before they become sexually active.
Boys could also be vaccinated in the hope of eventually eradicating HPV.
The vaccine is in competition with a rival from GlaxoSmithKline, called Cervarix, which is still a year off the European approval stage.
Cervical cancer kills 274,000 women worldwide every year.
Studies on Gardasil have shown it is also effective in protecting women already exposed to one type of HPV from the other three strains.
“The fact that it has taken just nine months for Gardasil to receive a European licence is, for us, testament to the vaccine’s significant benefits for women’s health and the strength of the clinical trial data on which the application was based,” said Didier Hoch, president of Sanofi Pasteur MSD.
“Surveys show that women and physicians understand and recognise the benefit of a four-type Human Papillomavirus vaccine that can prevent cervical cancer and other Human Papillomavirus diseases before and beyond cervical cancer.
“Encouraged by excellent expert feedback, we will now do all we can to make Gardasil available across Europe as soon as possible.”