The nationwide vaccination of schoolgirls against cervical cancer began this morning.

The Health Service Executive has said that the vaccine will help protect more than 57,000 schoolgirls from developing the cancer as adults.

It will be offered to all girls attending first and second year in second level schools.

Dr Brenda Corcoran of the National Immunisation Office said the vaccine will eventually save around 60 lives in Ireland each year.

She said: 'In Ireland, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in the country among females aged 15 to 44. HPV or Human Papillomavirus, is proven to cause cervical cancer.

'It is a common virus - about 80% of people will have a HPV infection during their lifetime.

'Even though it will take time for the impact of the vaccination programme to be seen, this vaccine will help protect the future health of this generation of young girls, and the generations to come.'

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