Dáil Éireann - Volume 628 - 22 November, 2006

Written Answers. - Vaccination Programme.

[356] Dr. Twomey asked the Minister for Health and Children if the vaccine for the prevention of the human papilloma virus will be available to private patients; if it will be available on the medical card if patients request it; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39375/06]

  Ms Harney: The first vaccine for the prevention of human papilloma virus (HPV) has recently been licensed for use in Ireland and may be prescribed. A decision about the availability of the vaccine to both public and private patients as part of a public vaccination programme is under consideration by my Department.

The major public health benefit claimed for HPV vaccine is the prevention of cervical cancer. Cervical cancer screening programmes have similar objectives. We, like other jurisdictions, are undertaking an examination of the potential role of HPV vaccination, its possible inclusion in public vaccination programmes, and the relative contribution of both HPV vaccination and cervical screening programmes in the prevention and control of cervical cancer. Issues to be examined include the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of the vaccine for different age groups, for differing levels of screening provision and uptake, and the implications for the national screening programme.

The National Immunisation Advisory Committee has been requested by the Department of Health and Children to advise on the potential public health benefit and appropriate use of HPV vaccine in the vaccination programme. In the light of that advice, the soon to be established National Cancer Screening Service will be asked to address as a matter of urgency the roll-out of the cervical screening programme and advise on an integrated approach between the two approaches that reflects evidenced-based priorities.

It is not intended to make the HPV vaccine available on the medical card. While this product is licensed for use in Ireland and may be prescribed, preventive vaccines which are part of public vaccination programmes are routinely acquired by the HSE, and supplied for clinical administration on its behalf, through an established procurement process. Effective vaccination programmes require education programmes, significant planning, clinical and administrative support, monitoring and evaluation and are not suitable to be carried out through the community drug schemes. Therefore, as direct dispensing to patients through a contracted community pharmacy would not be an appropriate channel for distribution for a preventative vaccine, this product was refused approval for inclusion in the com[357] mon list of reimbursable products under the GMS and community drugs schemes.