By Eilish O'Regan
Tuesday September 28 2010
OLDER schoolgirls who will miss out on the free cervical cancer vaccine being rolled out by the HSE are being offered the jab for €300.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) is currently giving the first phase of the vaccine to schoolgirls in first and second year of secondary school.
However, health insurer Aviva yesterday announced its own catch-up programme in partnership with Point of Care.
It aims to make the vaccine available to 150,000 girls between third and sixth year of secondary schools. It said that 29 schools with more than 11,000 pupils had already expressed an interest.
"A number of schools in Dublin, Cork, Meath and Limerick have already signed up to the programme and vaccinations will begin this month."
The cervical cancer vaccine is offered free of charge by the HSE -- but only to girls in the first two years, and from 2011 will only apply to first years.
This scheme is costing €3m for 30,000 secondary school girls this year -- at a cost of around €100 per child.
In contrast, receiving the vaccine privately through a GP is estimated to cost around €600.
The catch-up scheme offered by Aviva will target older girls who are still teenagers but are too old to qualify for the free vaccine.
Aviva said it was offering the set of three injections at the "lowest price for vaccination in the country" -- it will work out at €300 per student where a group of 25 are involved. It will be cheaper for its own members at €249.
It said a recent survey of parents in second to sixth year of secondary school had shown that 93pc thought it would be a "good thing" for their daughter to receive the vaccine.
Up to 13pc said their daughter had already received it.
However, more than half (51pc) were not willing to pay for the vaccine saying it was too expensive.
Caroline O'Reilly is principal of Eureka Secondary School, Kells, Co Meath, one of the first schools to sign up to the programme. "We were getting lots of requests from concerned parents who had daughters who did not qualify for the Government's programme.
"We are now one of the first schools in Ireland to offer our 400 girls from third to sixth year access to this vaccine through the Aviva Schools Catch Up Programme, which will help protect their future health."
- Eilish O'Regan Health Correspondent