Acceptable Losses

It was almost as a throwaway item during the 9pm RTÉ News.

As part of budget cutbacks, the government has decided not to go ahead as planned with a programme to vaccinate teenage girls, saving ten million euros.

The human pappiloma virus (HPV) vaccine protects young girls against a form of cervical cancer.

Last June, the Health Information and Quality Authority recommended that girls should receive the vaccine at the age of twelve, with a one-off vaccination of all girls between thirteen and fifteen at the launch of the programme.

The authority said that the programme would be cost effective, saving millions in years to come that would otherwise be spent treating cancer patients.

Health minister Mary Harney agreed, and announced the vaccination programme in August.

Fine Gael argues the moneysaving measure will be 52 more deaths from cancer every year than would otherwise have happened.

That’s one woman every week.

But is this just a cost-saving measure?

I only ask because the Catholic church opposes HPV vaccines, arguing – as best I can understand their logic – that twelve year old girls will be more likely to have sex if they don’t think they’ll get cancer thirty years later.

By Gerard Cunningham

Gerard Cunningham occupies his time working as a journalist, writer, sub-editor, blogger and podcaster, yet still finds himself underemployed.

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