HARNEY'S U-TURN ON CANCER JAB; after a 14-Month Campaign by the Mail, the Cervical Cancer Vaccine Is to Be Rolled out. That's 52 Lives Saved This Year Alone; 'Proof Public Can Alter Health Policy'
Byline: Senan Molony Political Editor
WOMEN'S lives will be saved after Mary Harney finally bowed to pressure to restore the cervical cancer vaccination programme for young girls. The Health Minister yesterday announced a U-turn after abandoning the programme 14 months ago.
She yielded to a long-running campaign - in which the Irish Daily Mail and you, our wonderful readers, have played a leading role - demanding the roll-out of the vaccine across the State.
Some 30,000 schoolgirls will benefit from the vaccine this year.
The U-turn was hailed last night by cancer specialist Professor John Crown who said: 'I welcome the decision from the minister to introduce a cervical cancer vaccination. It shows that sustained public pressure can influence governments to change bad policies.' Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly, who spent E20,000 of his own money to vaccinate girls in his constituency, welcomed the U-turn .
Writing in today's Mail, he says that 52 lives can be saved a year.
Dr Reilly writes that the Health Information and Quality Authority held a one-year study and discovered that 52 of the 93 deaths from cervical cancer over the 12 months could have been avoided.
He adds: 'We now have a serious chance to dramatically reduce the number of deaths from cervical cancer every year. What a truly marvellous thing.' And Miss Harney secured the vaccination programme for just E3million - a figure that the Mail had pointed out on many occasions was achievable, given the price at which the inoculations were available in other countries.
Pharmaceutical firms had also confirmed to this newspaper that the cost was considerably lower than the E10million price Miss Harney had put on it in November 2008.
The dramatic reversal came up to 14 months after Miss Harney suspended the programme, saying the cost was prohibitive.
The suspension came just weeks after she pledged to join other European countries in giving free jabs to protect against the virus.
Now the vaccinations will begin before the summer, taking in a cohort of mostly 12-year-olds in the first year of secondary school. Miss Harney said these were the youngsters who would have been given the protection if the scheme had gone ahead last year.
However, she also admitted that there would be no 'catchup' programme to provide the vaccine to girls in second year and later.
Yesterday, the Mail's campaign was hailed by independent TD Jim McDaid.
'The Mail has been to the fore in campaigning on this issue, in all fairness to yourselves,' former minister Dr McDaid said. 'Every time I picked up the paper, you were beating the drum on it. I am delighted the minister has seen sense.' Dr McDaid resigned the
Fianna Fail whip over the issue in the autumn of 2008, saying Miss Harney's cancellation of the programme would mean around 20 needless deaths every year. …