TD donates €20,000 to vaccine scheme
A Fine Gael TD has donated €20,000 from his salary to help fund a free cervical cancer vaccine for 300 schoolgirls in his constituency.
North Dublin TD, Dr James Reilly has teamed up with a group of four business people who donated €5,000 each to add another €20,000 to the fund.
Doctors and nurses in the area are donating their services for free and the entire vaccination drive -- which would normally cost around €180,000 -- will be done for less than half that sum. He has also negotiated a discount deal with vaccine-makers Sanofi Pasteur.
The money raised so far is enough to administer the first dosages of the vaccine.
"We need to raise the additional funds but we are confident we can do that," he added.
The first injections will be administered to the girls this Saturday and they will return in a month for the final dosage.
"Doctors and nurses in the area are willing to give their time freely. The phone has not stopped ringing all day," said Dr Reilly.
"We have put out a package to the schools. We are doing a leaflet on cervical cancer, a leaflet on the vaccine itself and a consent form. All children aged 12 in sixth class in the schools we contacted will be vaccinated if they turn up with a guardian and consent form."
Awareness of cervical cancer has been heightened by the tragic plight of reality television star Jade Goody who is dying from the disease.
The fundraising comes after the controversial decision of Health Minister Mary Harney to postpone the national rollout of the vaccine for 28,000 because of lack of funding. She estimated it would have cost €10m.
Dr Reilly insisted yesterday that the overall cost would not be that high. He said if he could negotiate a deal for enough vaccine for 300 girls, the Health Service Executive (HSE) should have even greater purchasing power.
Cervical cancer claims 70 lives a year here. There are 200 new cases diagnosed annually.
The Health Information and Quality Authority estimated that if the vaccine was introduced, along with the national screening programme, 52 deaths would be prevented.
The vaccinations will take place on Saturday in four locations. Parents are invited to attend with their daughters and a consent form. Details of the locations can be obtained by phoning 01-6183749.
"The fact that 19 schools, parents' associations, teachers, doctors, nurses, and 300 children have indicated demand should send a loud message to the minister," said Dr Reilly.