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Charity's €8k debts in cervical cancer jab

A DUBLIN fundraising group is €8,000 in debt after it raised funds for over 600 cervical cancer vaccines -- before a massive vaccination programme was announced by Health Minister Mary Harney.

The North Fingal campaign spent around €60,000 vaccinating 210 girls with 630 vaccines for young girls in Rush and Lusk, north Co Dublin last year.

And as the Minister announced that up to 30,000 school girls will get the vaccine this year, the group is trying to clear the remaining €8,000 of their debt.

Claire Mullen said: "We vaccinated 210 girls in the north Fingal area, and we started it last March. We had to fundraise for it, and it's [fundraising] still continuing.

"It's excellent. We put a lot of hard work into it, and we got an awful lot of help from around. We started by saying that we'd do Rush and Lusk and we found out how many 12-year-olds were around."

While 300 girls in Rush and Lusk were offered the vaccine programme, which was initiated by Fine Gael Health spokesman Dr James Reilly TD, only 210 opted for it.

Ms Mullen, Dr Reilly and another campaigner Chris Hourigan are busy organising fundraisers in the community, such as a friendly match between Glebe North and Bohemians.

But Claire hasn't ruled out asking Minister Mary Harney to subsidise the remaining €8,000, since she made the U-turn decision to vaccinate 30,000 girls.

"We might do it yet. We'll see how we get on. If we think the fundraising is running a bit dry, we might do it."

Meanwhile, Dr James Reilly TD who lobbied for a national vaccination programme, says he hopes the north Dublin campaign was an inspiration to Minister Harney.

"I think it was worthwhile and I hope it played a role in stimulating the Minister to vaccinate the country.

"The angst created by her decision not to proceed when she said she was brought about this community initiative."

He conceded that the Minister's U-turn announcement came a little too late as they had already completed their work for 2009.

"It was unfortunate. I did castigate her when she did the U-turn. But, in the end, the children are the winners and that's the most important thing.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Children said the Minister will not refund the costs of any vaccinations administered privately.

She added: "The HSE is committed to starting this campaign during the current school year. The programme will continue with vaccine being offered to all girls in first year in secondary school each year."