“If you vaccinate we will obliterate 75% of cervical cancers…”

From Gavin featuring Consultant Oncologist Professor John Crown of St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin who argues the Government is deliberately muddying the waters over it’s decision to cut the cervical cancer vaccine programme that was only announced in August. Mr Crown has clashed with the government before. Most notably last year when he was dropped at the very last minute from an edition of the Late Late Show in controversial circumstances. Crown is pretty straightforward in his criticism:

“There have been a series of attempts to confuse the issue with the national screening programme and the issue of the vaccine, to somehow say that we have the screening programme so we don’t need the vaccine. Or somehow the vaccine will undermine the screening programme. The arithemtic is very simple: if you vaccinate we will obliterate 75% of cervical cancers. 75% of deaths; but not only the deaths but those people who are cured of cervical cancer but at the cost of substantial morbidity from the treatment that they would undergo. All of the other folks who would undergo treatment for pre-malignant lesions, 75-80 of them would be avoided.”

As Donncha notes, Ms Harney has cited €9.4 annual cost for the treatment. But her contribution in the Dail the other day front-loaded precisely that elision between screening and vaccination that Crown complains of in the clip above:It seems that money was the problem, namely the demand from Finance for €700 million of cuts in the Health budget (the same figure she claims FG’s Richard Bruton called for recently). Her argument is that screening will have more immediate effects, whilst the cases of women saved by the vaccine won’t come into practical effect for 25 years.

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  • susan

    Good on you, Mick, and Gavin, and Dr Crown.

  • Ann

    whilst the cases of women saved by the vaccine won’t come into practical effect for 25 years.

    A typical case of governments ruling with an eye on the short term effects of this on them, rather than the long term effects of this on women. Putting money before people.

    I can’t say I’m surprised by this, it’s still a banana republic. Shame on Harney, as a woman and mother she should stop justifying the govts position.

    Good on you, Mick, and Gavin, and Dr Crown

    Yes, and trust Harney, a woman to go against other women? Remember Mary, women are voters too.

  • Greenflag

    Obviously we have’nt enough women in Government 🙁

    Deaths from cervical cancer were higher in the UK than in the Republic back in the 1970’s . Since then death rates in England m, Scotland and Wales have reduced dramatically while Northern Irelands has death rate from CC’s has also reduced . In the Republic the rate has increased despite the present screening system .

    Extract from BCJ (British Cancer Journal) tells more

    ‘ The experience of the Nordic countries and of British Columbia (Laara et al, 1987; Anderson et al, 1988; Hakama and Louhivuori, 1988) suggests that only those with an organised population-based programme show significant decreases in mortality. Although deaths from cervical cancer are relatively infrequent in Ireland (76 per year on average; 2.2% of all cancer deaths), they are largely preventable through screening. The opportunistic screening at present carried out in Ireland appears to be having little impact on the overall rate of mortality from cervical cancer. A move from the current system to a population-based programme would not greatly increase the volume of screening while probably bringing about the type of mortality reduction seen elsewhere.
    Sounds like the ‘consultants ‘ have a point .

    Is saving 57 womens (75% of lives a year worth 10 million or 175,438 euros per life ?

    If the public service sector, or the medical consultants, and the Government Ministers /TD’s / MEP s agreed to a .025% decrease in their pay/fees /salaries I’m sure they could come up with the 10 million .

    But hey they’re only women .

    Mary Harney needs to find other ways to save 10 million pronto .

    FF are missing Bertie’s political finesse and judgement 🙁

  • William

    Anyone know how bad mammograms are at picking up breast cancer?

  • Kevin

    There is a bunch of information on mammograms on Wikipedia

  • Comrade Stalin

    Are there any medical types who can explain how a vaccination, ie introduction of a low-strength variant of a disease, can prevent a cancer, ie uncontrolled cell division ?

  • susan

    CS, I am not in medicine, but most cervical cancers are caused by HPV, which is spread through sexual contact.

    William, does wearing a seatbelt guarantee you will survive a crash?

    No, but it will improve your odds for survival. Likewise with regular mammograms. It is true tumours are too often missed, but the new imaging devises and scans are detecting more cancers earlier on, greatly increasing odds of survival, and annual or regular mammograms give health care providers a baseline and points of comparison in efforts to identify and treat the earliest stages of breast cancer, when survival rates are the highest.

  • susan

    CS, I forgot, I like the Mayo Clinic links on most subjects and thought this might be useful background for you:


  • James MacLochlainn

    Gardasil, the vaccine from Merck against against two strains of the human papillomavirus, known as HPV 16 and 18, which has been marketed to save women and young children from cervical cancer is now being questioned by experts, according to a front page story in the Wall Street Journal.

    In clinical trials, Gardasil showed only a 14% lower rate of precancerous lesions within 3 years of vaccination when compared to a control group. “I do believe that Gardasil protects against HPV 16 and 18, but the effect it will have on cervical-cancer rates in this country is another question entirely,” says Dr. Scott Emerson, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Washington who sat on the FDA advisory committee, “There is a leap of faith involved

    The article details the length at which Merck has marketed the vaccine to become mandatory in states for young girls, although Merck only tested the vaccine in only a few hundred 11- and 12-year-old girls.

    Despite all of these questions, Merck has distributed more than four million doses of Gardasil in the U.S.

  • susan

    James, are you a doctor or involved in medical research? Do you have a family member who’s been affected by cervical cancer? I’m asking what your area of expertise and interest is because my oldest child is scheduled to receive her first of three vaccinations next week, and I’m unclear from your posts if you think the vaccinations could be improved — fair enough — or should not be given at all, a far more serious matter, and as a mother if you feel the vaccinations should not be offered I would like to know your medical reasons why as you may well have access to information I do not.

    When you linked this story yesterday to Mick F’s earlier blog on the vaccine and then today, a simple on-line search revealed that most of the medical sites felt the study the Journal quoted was a bit misleading because because more than 25% of the women in the study were ALREADY infected with HPV before receiving the vaccine. In a subset of 4,616 women in the trial who were mostly free of HPV when they were vaccinated, only 52 developed precancerous lesions on their cervixes over the next three years, 46% less than women in the placebo group, according to MERCK.

    Clearly Merck stands to make or lose millions over Gardasil’s efficacy, but I am really only looking as a healthcare decision for my daughters.

  • Comrade Stalin


    Thanks for that.

    Watch out for the tests conducted by the drug companies. It’s essential that independent tests are done to determine the effectiveness of these substances.