HSE hails cervical cancer jab rates
More than 44,000 schoolgirls have been protected against developing cervical cancer as adults, health chiefs have said.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) revealed that the number of girls vaccinated against the killer disease over the last two years has exceeded all targets set when rolled out.
About 250 women are diagnosed with cervical cancer in Ireland each year, with 80 patients dying from it.
Dr Kevin Kelleher said vaccination rates have been better, or as good as, many other countries worldwide.
"Staff involved in the programme are to be commended for this achievement," said Dr Kelleher, the assistant national director of health protection at the HSE.
The human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine is administered in three doses over six months.
The vaccination programme was introduced to a small number of schools in May 2010 and was rolled out nationally the following September, targeting almost 60,000 schoolgirls in their first and second years.
The free programme will begin again in the coming months for all girls starting secondary school.
Dr Kelleher said the routine programme for first-year girls during 2011/2012 was well received, with an uptake rate of 86% for the three vaccine doses, up from 82% for 2010/2011 and well above the target of 80% uptake rate set by the HSE.
"In addition, a catch-up programme was introduced in 2011/2012 for all sixth- year girls and the rate for completed vaccination courses for sixth-year students was also very strong with a 72% uptake, 12% above the target of 60%," he added.
Cervical cancer is a cancer of the cervix at the entrance to the womb and is the second most common cancer in Ireland among women aged 15 to 44.
Most of the vaccinations against it are administered in schools by HSE immunisation teams, with some girls being invited to HSE clinics for their jabs.
Prior to the vaccination, the HSE also sends information packs and consent forms via the school for completion by parents, guardians or the girls themselves.
The Government made a dramatic U-turn at the start of 2010 to roll out the life-saving vaccine after initially claiming it could not afford to do so given the tough economic climate.
However, drug companies agreed to lower their prices for the vaccine, which saw the cost of the programme - including the vaccine and administration costs - slashed from 16 million euro (£13.7 million) to three million (£2.6 million).