A new vaccine to prevent the HPV virus is a welcome development but is currently only available through private health care.

The Human Papilloma Virus accounts for around 70 per cent of all cervical cancers. Until now, the best way to detect cervical cancer was through smear testing. However, a new vaccine against the HPV virus has now been launched.

Around 80 per cent of sexually active women can expect to get the HPV virus at some stage in their lives.

Dr Grainne Flannelly explains that while the vast majority of women will get rid of the virus without any problems, others will not be so lucky.

This vaccine is actually directed at protecting people from the initial infection.

The vaccine is only available privately and costs €345 for three injections administered over a six month period. The vaccine is intended for young women before they become sexually active.

While the vaccine is being hailed as a positive development, the Irish Cancer Society has emphasised that it is not a substitute for regular smear testing.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 17 October 2006. The reporter is Sinéad Crowley.