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Girls get cervical cancer jab in U-turn

MORE than 30,000 teenage girls will be offered a free vaccine against cervical cancer.

The move comes after Minister for Health Mary Harney announced a U-turn to reintroduce the abandoned cervical cancer vaccination.

The Department of Health also revealed plans for a detection programme screening 60 to 69-year-olds for colorectal cancer in 2012.

Mrs Harney said she opened negotiations with two vaccine makers last year and successfully cut costs from the original €16m bill to just €3m -- a reduction of 81pc.

"The reason why this is now possible is because vaccine companies have offered substantially better prices for Ireland," the minister said.

"I think there's a general lesson here for the health service as well as for the public service -- we can do an awful lot more for the same amount of money if we get better value."

Fine Gael Health spokesperson Dr James Reilly praised the minister for slashing the cost of cancer care and prevention.

"It is not often that I have cause to commend the Health Minister but I am happy to do so without reservation," he said.

"It was always my view that this vital health measure could be introduced affordably through negotiation with the pharmaceutical companies and I am glad to see that this has now come to pass."

The vaccine will be offered to teenage girls in their first year of secondary school.

The Irish Family Planning Association welcomed the move and the said the scheme could wipe out the disease in a generation.